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Five Plays 





Selected and Introduced 


published by MERIDIAN BOOKS, INC. New York 

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A Living Age Books Original Edition 

Published April 1957 by Meridian Books, Inc. 

First printing March 1957 

Second printing June 1958 

Third printing August 1959 

Fourth printing January 1960 

Fifth printing July 1960 

Copyright 1957 by Meridian Books, Inc. 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number; 57-6684 
Manufactured in the United States of America 

Introduction by MARVIN HALVERSON 

After centuries of alienation, we are witnessing in our 
day the return of drama to the churches and the recog- 
nition by churchmen of the religious dimensions of theater. 
Although it is now common knowledge that our drama has 
its roots in the liturgy of the Church, it is only in com- 
paratively recent times that this historic relationship has 
taken on new life. One of the sources of renewal un- 
doubtedly has been the growing awareness of the dramatic 
nature of the liturgy itself. While the historic shape of the 
liturgy, centering in Sermon and Supper with its attendant 
ritual acts, can never be regarded as tableaux or drama in 
itself, the liturgy nonetheless points to the divine drama of 
redemption. Christian faith sees life as a cosmic drama. 
The Biblical understanding of history as possessing a be- 
ginning, a middle, and an end, the creedal symbols of the 
Creation, the Crucifixion, and the Last Judgment, and the 
related acts of worship are the means by which man sees 
his participation in the cosmic drama of God's action and 
man's response. 

Both the mood of our age and the religious climate in 
our churches have been such as either to misunderstand 
or reject this Biblical view of man and history. Thus we 
were not prepared either to accept a dramatic inheritance 
of religious meaning or to encourage contemporary drama 
of religious significance. However, the events of recent 
time and the renewal of theology today are sources of the 
striking resurgence of that religious drama which these 
pkys represent. Although interest in religious drama is 
now widespread throughout this country, the renascence 
of such drama first began in Europe, where the moralism of 
a diffused Chris tiarji^ WH OIWK 1 by the shock of wars 


6 Introduction by Marvin Halverson 

and persecutions and renewed in the fire of the Gospel. la 
our own country churchmen are not as much at ease in 
bourgeois Zions and are becoming aware of the disquiets 
of our time. Thus one observes among churchmen a recep- 
tiveness to drama of depth and attentiveness to what the 
best voices in our theater disclose of the human situation 

The probing character of our best theater, both in 
America and Europe, and its mode of asking questions that 
demand an existential reply, suggest that much modern 
drama is fundamentally religious. For religious drama ap- 
propriate to our day is more often that drama which poses 
questions rather than that which attempts to give answers. 
Thus the religious mind discerns the religious questions in 
the works of playwrights such as Williams, Miller, O'Neill, 
Camus, Sartre, and Beckett. However, the plays included 
in this anthology are representative not of this theater but 
rather of that drama which is more explicitly religious in 
theme and awareness. Dilemmas confronting men during 
episodes in the history of the church and the events of 
the Bible provide the subject matter. Yet while their stage 
is the past, these plays are contemporaneous in feeling. 
This is particularly true of Auden's For the Time Being, 
where the Eternal Act is inextricably related to tiie tran- 
sient and fragmented now. However, beyond the return to 
Biblical themes and insights through contemporary vision 
these plays also represent the return of poetry to the 
theater. For the renewal of religious drama has been 
assisted by this restoration of poetry because the poetic 
approach is closer to the religious than the prevalent 
naturalism of nineteenth- and twentieth-century theater. 

Thirty years ago Dr. Bell, then Dean of Canterbury and 
later Bishop of Chichester, wanted to stage a play in the 
chapterhouse of the cathedral church. A poet himself, Dr. 
Bell asked John Masefield to write a nativity play, which 
he promptly agreed to do. Masefield's The Coming of 
Christ was presented at Whitsuntide, 1928, with music by 
Gustav Hoist. Subsequently T. S. Eliot, Dorothy Sayers, 

Introduction by Marvin Halverson 7 

and Charles Williams, among others, responded to invita- 
tions to write plays. Through these efforts T. S. Eliot was 
introduced as a dramatist to the theater. There had been 
intimations of Eliot's interest in the renewal of drama 
through poetry, for as early as 1924 in treating "Four 
Elizabethan Dramatists" he had said: "I believe that the 
theatre has reached a point at which a revolution in prin- 
ciples should take place." The dramatic inadequacy of the 
theater, in Elizabethan as well as modern times, said Eliot, 
lay in the lack of a convention. Although that necessary 
convention might be in technique, in subject matter, in 
form, the surest convention was to be found in the liturgy. 
"Drama/* said Eliot, "springs from religious liturgy, and it 
cannot afford to depart too far from religious liturgy/' 
Also, he felt that verse was a necessary element in die 
recovery of drama. Mr. Eliot, however, did not make a 
direct contribution to the theater until 1933, when The 
Rock was written and produced in connection with a fund- 
raising effort for the rebuilding of London churches. 

Although not a completed work, Eliot's Sweeney 
Agonistes, published in The Criterion in 1926-7, had 
pointed to his awareness of the role of myth in illumining 
man's situation. The emergence of myth as a decisive ele- 
ment in our literature since that time suggests Eliot, if 
not initiating a new factor in drama, was at least antici- 
pating development of enormous significance for religious 
drama. John Lehmann pointed out that contemporary art 
and literature disclose an intense search for the myth and 
heritage of the past in awareness of the present. "The 
reason for this return to the kind of art that conceals a 
metaphysical meaning behind and above what it states is 
surely not far to seek." Although many are still sustained 
by the Christian religion and its symbols, the hold has 
been weakened. But their replacement by other ideologies 
has not satisfied the artist, for "life," says Lehmann, "is 
more complex and more mysterious than the textbooks of 
progress ever told us. And we look around for symbols 
that shall recreate faith within the enlarged circumference 

8 Introduction by Marvin Halverson 

of this new awareness . . . even if those symbols should 
lead us back to a rediscovery of the central meaning of 
Christianity, restored through the discarding of outworn 
and corrupted images/' This need to discover adequate 
symbols, the return to the hero-paradigms of Judaeo- 
Christian culture, to the Bible, and to history is demon- 
strated in each of the plays included in this anthology. 

D. H. Lawrence's David is such an example of this re- 
turn, although as a writer he stands outside the modern 
movement o religious drama. Lawrence, whose last com- 
pleted book was a treatment of the Apocalypse, is now 
being widely recognized as a writer of deep religious sensi- 
tivity. His work is a prophetic protest against the despolia- 
tions of life by industrialism, narrow rationalism, and 
sterile religion. Throughout his life he was seeking the 
vital center through which the organic wholeness of exist- 
ence might be perceived and fulfilled. Lawrence decried 
the blunted lives and blighted spirituality which derive 
from tihat peculiarly English form of social organization 
we have come to term "the Establishment/' He was con- 
cerned with the health of society and wholeness of being 
out of a rare religious sensitivity. While he did not conform 
to ecclesiastical views of religion he was immersed in the 
Bible. His writing testifies that the Scriptural influence of 
his English Congregational background was indelible. For 
not only does he make use of the Biblical story, as in 
David, but his employment of Biblical imagery penetrates 
to the heart of meaning. While one might credit this fresh- 
ness of insight to Lawrence's powerful imagination, it is 
also testimony to the renewing power of the Biblical image 
itself. David is a play that deals inevitably with the love of 
Jonathan and David, but its focus is even more on the 
tension between David and Saul. For Lawrence sees in 
David a fox-faced wisdom that gets him the kingdom over 
against the vitalities and subconscious forces that dominate 
Saul.* And in the prayer of Samuel the poetic and reli- 

* Thus to Lawrence, Saul's brokenness is more human than 
David's calculation. 

Introduction by Marvin Halverson g 

giously ecstatic quality of the play is seen in a way that 
makes most Biblical plays seem prosaic and devoid of life. 
In Christopher Fry's work, drama and verse have 
achieved a union that has influenced commercial theater 
as well as religious drama In The Firstborn as well as 
A Sleep of Prisoners one finds evidence of the myth's power 
to renew its life in the contemporary mind. Based on the 
figure of Moses, Fry's The Firstborn is a play of subtle 
understanding and effective dramatic device. The conflict 
between Moses and Pharaoh counterpoised by the inner 
conflict of Moses set the issues of power and its use and 
pose the question of ends and means. Drawing upon the 
powerful symbol of the Exodus and the surrounding action 
of that story, Fry establishes a dramatic dialogue between 
narrative and poetic commentary which concludes with 
the awareness that we are all bound together in a living 
tether. The curtain falls on Moses looking beyond the 
moment to 

"The morning, which still comes 
To Egypt as to Israel, the round of light 
Which will not wheel in Vain. 
We must find our separate meaning 
In the persuasion of our days 
Until we meet in the meaning of the world. 
Until that time." 

For W. H. Auden the place we meet is where the mean- 
ing of the world is fulfilled, the Event in which all events 
find their significance the Christ through whose incarna- 
tion the now is seen through the eternal and the now in- 
vested with eternal meaning. For the Time Being, which 
Mr. Auden calls a Christmas Oratorio, is a remarkable 
fusion of poetry and religious insight. While technically 
not a play and not intended for performance in theater, 
For the Time Being is a brilliant work in verse which has 
been performed often as drama. Auden, like Eliot, turned 
to the theater as an important form of communication. 
However, this verse oratorio, rather than the plays, is his 

10 Introduction by Marvin Halverson 

major contribution to the literature of religious drama. For 
in addition to his competence as a poet, Auden brings a 
personal awareness of the dislocations of our time into 
tension with a profound grasp of the Christian message. 
For the Time Being abounds in the paradoxes of life and 
the paradox of faith. Thus the work is confusing to the 
mind that sees Christianity as summed up in moralism and 
life fulfilled through legalism. It is religious drama arising 
out of our time which yet speaks to our time. 

In all the plays one finds the perennial themes of power 
and pride with the possibility of redemption. Pride, the 
chief sin and the sin common to all men, is the "fatal flaw" 
in the Christian understanding of dramatic tragedy. Pride 
is the basis of dramatic development and particularly in 
The Zeal of Thy House, which was written by Dorothy 
Sayers for the Canterbury Festival in 1937. Although she 
was best known as a writer of detective stories, Dorothy 
Sayers was a theologian and a playwright. Her twelve 
radio plays on the Christ, The Man Born to Be King, and 
many other works intended for stage production, have es- 
tablished her in the company of dramatists who seek to 
serve the churches directly. It is not inappropriate, there- 
fore, to include The Zeal of Thy House, which deals with 
the rivalries and pride involved in the building of the 
cathedral church at Canterbury. 

The Bloody Tenet by James Schevill, an American poet, 
is also rooted in an episode of the life of the churches. Com- 
missioned by Central Congregational Church in Prov- 
idence, Rhode Island, and the Department of Worship and 
the Arts of the National Council of Churches, this play 
represents the intention of calling upon the poets and 
playwrights of our own country to contribute to this 
growing body of religious drama. SchevilTs play, The 
Bloody Tenet, deals with Roger Williams, one of the 
intriguing figures in American history, who has become a 
symbol for freedom and religious liberty in this country. 
But Schevill has gone beyond the conflict between Roger 
Williams's conscience and the established authorities to the 

Introduction by Marvin Halverson 11 

inner conflict between Williams's pride and God's will, out 
o which issued a train of events in American life which 
belie the privacy of man's lonely debate. The play has 
been cast in poetic form, at the same time incorporating 
much of the language of Williams himself. 

The plays in this collection demonstrate the power of 
symbols and myths out of our past to illumine the present 
and define the issues of life in our time. But since religious 
drama embraces a range of expression even wider than 
that which is represented by this collection, subsequent 
volumes of Religious Drama have been published. The 
influence of medieval plays on modern theater is seen in 
Religious Drama 2, a collection of representative mystery 
and morality plays from the Middle Ages. Religious Drama 
3 returns to our own day with a selection of contemporary 
works representing a modern morality play form. Sub- 
sequent volumes will continue to make available in this 
format the best examples of extant dramatic literature as 
well as present new works of religious significance and 
dramatic merit. 

December 9, 1959 



A Christmas Oratorio by 
w. H. AUDEN 


A Play in Three Acts by 


DAVID 165 

A Play by 



A Play by 



A Play by 



A Christmas Oratorio 



What shall uoe say then? Shall -we 
continue in sin, that grace may 
abound? God forbid. ROMANS vi. 

Copyright, 1945 by W. H. Auden. Reprinted 
with the permission of Random House. 



Darkness and snow descend; 
The clock on the mantelpiece 
Has nothing to recommend, 
Nor does the face in the glass 
Appear nobler than our own 
As darkness and snow descend 
On all personality. 
Huge crowds mumble "Alas, 
Our angers do not increase, 
Love is not what she used to be"; 
Portly Caesar yawns "I know"; 
He falls asleep on his throne, 
They shuffle off through the snow 
Darkness and snow descend. 


Can great Hercules keep his 

Extraordinary promise 

To reinvigorate the Empire? 

Utterly lost, he cannot 

Even locate his task but 

Stands in some decaying orchard 

Or the irregular shadow 

Of a ruined temple, aware of 

Being watched from the horrid mountains 

By fanatical eyes yet 

Seeing no one at all, only hearing 

The silence softly broken 

By the poisonous rustle 

Of famishing Arachne. 



Winter completes an age 
With its thorough levelling; 
Heaven's tourbillions of rage 
Abolish the watchman's tower 
And delete the cedar grove. 
As winter completes an age, 
The eyes huddle like cattle, doubt 
Seeps into the pores and power 
Ebbs from the heavy signet ring; 
The prophet's lantern is out 
And gone the boundary stone, 
Cold the heart and cold the stove, 
Ice condenses on the bone: 
Winter completes an age. 


Outside the civil garden 
Of every day of love there 
Crouches a wild passion 

To destroy and be destroyed* 
O who to boast their power 
Have challenged it to charge? Like 
"Wheat our souls are sifted 

And cast into the void. 


The evil and armed draw near; 
The weather smells of their hate 
And the houses smell of our fear; 
Death has opened his white eye 
And the black hole calls the thief 
As the evil and armed draw near. 
Ravens alight on the wall, 
Our plans have all gone awry, 
The rains will arrive too late, 
Our resourceful general 
Fell down dead as he drank 

AUDEN: For the Time Being 15 

And his horses died o grief, 
Our navy sailed away and sank; 
The evil and armed draw near. 



If, on account of the political situation, 

There are quite a number of homes without roofs, and men 

Lying about in the countryside neither drunk nor asleep, 

If all sailings have been cancelled till further notice, 

If it's unwise now to say much in letters, and if, 

Under the subnormal temperatures prevailing, 

The two sexes are at present the weak and the strong, 

That is not at all unusual for this time of year. 

If that were all we should know how to manage. Flood, fire, 

The desiccation of grasslands, restraint of princes, 

Piracy on the high seas, physical pain and fiscal grief, 

These after all are our familiar tribulations, 

And we have been through them all before, many, many 


As events which belong to the natural world where 
The occupation of space is the real and final fact 
And time turns round itself in an obedient circle, 
They occur again and again but only to pass 
Again and again into their formal opposites, 
From sword to ploughshare, coffin to cradle, war to work, 
So that, taking the bad with the good, the pattern composed 
By the ten thousand odd things that can possibly happen 
Is permanent in a general average way. 

Till lately we knew of no other, and between us we 


To have what it took the adrenal courage of the tiger, 
The chameleon's discretion, the modesty of the doe, 
Or the fern's devotion to spatial necessity: 
To practise one's peculiar civic virtue was not 
So impossible after all; to cut our losses 


And bury our dead was really quite easy: That was why 
We were always able to say: "We are children of God, 
And our Father has never forsaken His people." 

But then we were children: That was a moment ago, 
Before an outrageous novelty had been introduced 
Into our lives. Why were we never warned? Perhaps we 


Perhaps that mysterious noise at the back of the brain 
We noticed on certain occasions sitting alone 
In the waiting room of the country junction, looking 
Up at the toilet window was not indigestion 
But this Horror starting already to scratch Its way in? 
Just how, just when It succeeded we shall never know: 
We can only say that now It is there and that nothing 
We learnt before It was there is now of the slightest use, 
For nothing like It has happened before. It's as if 
We had left our house for five minutes to mail a letter, 
And during that time the living room had changed places 
With the room behind the mirror over the fireplace; 
It's as if, waking up with a start, we discovered 
Ourselves stretched out flat on the floor, watching our 


Sleepily stretching itself at the window. I mean 
That the world of space where events re-occur is still there, 
Only now it's no longer real; the real one is nowhere 
Where time never moves and nothing can ever happen: 
I mean that although there's a person we know all about 
Still bearing our name and loving himself as before, 
That person has become a fiction; our true existence 
Is decided by no one and has no importance to love. 
That is why we despair; that is why we would welcome 
The nursery bogey or the winecellar ghost, why even 
The violent howling of winter and war has become 
Like a juke-box tune that we dare not stop. We are afraid 
Of pain but more afraid of silence; for no nightmare 
Of hostile objects could be as terrible as this Void. 
This is the Abomination. This is the wrath of God. 

AUDEN: For the Time Being 17 



Alone, alone, about a dreadful wood 
Of conscious evil runs a lost mankind, 
Dreading to find its Father lest it find 
The Goodness it has dreaded is not good: 
Alone, alone, about our dreadful wood. 

Where is that Law for which we broke our own, 
Where now that Justice for which Flesh resigned 
Her hereditary right to passion, Mind 
His will to absolute power? Gone. Gone. 
Where is that Law for which we broke our own? 

The Pilgrim Way has led to the Abyss. 
Was it to meet such grinning evidence 
We left our richly odoured ignorance? 
Was the triumphant answer to be this? 
The Pilgrim Way has led to the Abyss, 

We who must die demand a miracle. 
How could the Eternal do a temporal act, 
The Infinite become a finite fact? 
Nothing can save us that is possible: 
We who must die demand a miracle. 


If the muscle can feel repugnance, there is still a false move 

to be made; 
If the mind can imagine tomorrow, there is still a defeat 

to remember; 

As long as the self can say "I," it is impossible not to rebel; 
As long as there is an accidental virtue, there is a necessary 

And the garden cannot exist, the miracle cannot occur. 


For the garden is the only place there is, but you will not 

find it 
Until you have looked for it everywhere and found nowhere 

that is not a desert; 
The miracle is the only thing that happens, but to you it will 

not be apparent, 
Until all events have been studied and nothing happens 

that you cannot explain; 
And life is the destiny you are bound to refuse until you 

have consented to die. 

Therefore, see without looking, hear without listening, 

breathe without asking: 
The Inevitable is what will seem to happen to you purely 

by chance; 

The Real is what will strike you as really absurd; 
Unless you are certain you are dreaming, it is certainly a 

dream of your own; 
Unless you exclaim "There must be some mistake" you 

must be mistaken. 



O where is that immortal and nameless Centre from which 

our points of 

Definition and death are all equi-distant? Where 
The well of our wish to wander, the everlasting fountain 

Of the waters of joy that our sorrow uses for tears? 
O where is the garden of Being that is only known in Exist- 
As the command to be never there, the sentence by 


Alephs of throbbing fact have been banished into position, 
The clock that dismisses the moment into the turbine of 


O would I could mourn over Fate like the others, the reso- 
lute creatures, 

AUDEN: For the Time Being 19 

By seizing my chance to regret. The stone is content 
With a formal anger and falls and falls; the plants are in- 

With one dimension only and can only doubt 
Whether light or darkness lies in the worse direction; and 

the subtler 

Exiles who try every path are satisfied 
With proving that none have a goal: why must Man also 


It is not enough to bear witness, for even protest is 

Earth is cooled and fire is quenched by his unique excite- 

All answers expire in the clench of his questioning hand, 
His singular emphasis frustrates all possible order: 

Alas, his genius is wholly for envy; alas, 
The vegetative sadness of lakes, the locomotive beauty 

Of choleric beasts of prey, are nearer than he 
To the dreams that deprive him of sleep, the powers that 
compel him to idle, 

To his amorous nymphs and his sanguine athletic gods. 

How can his knowledge protect his desire for truth from 


How can he wait without idols to worship, without 
Their overwhelming persuasion that somewhere, over tibe 

high hill, 

Under the roots of the oak, in the depths of the sea, 
Is a womb or a tomb wherein he may halt to express some 


How can he hope and not dream that his solitude 
Shall disclose a vibrating flame at last and entrust him 

With its magic secret of how to extemporise life? 





Over the life of Man 
\Ve watch and wait, 
The Four who manage 
His fallen estate: 
\Ve who are four were 
Once but one, 
Before his act of 

\Ve were himself when 
His 'will was free, 
His error became our 
Chance to be. 
Powers of air and fire, 
"Water and earth, 
Into our hands is given 
Man from his birth: 

As a dwarf in the dark of 
His belly I rest; 

A nymph, I inhabit 
The heart in his breast; 

A giant, at the gates of 
His body I stand; 

His dreaming brain is 

My fairyland. 





AUDEN: For the Time Being 

Invisible phantoms, 
The forms we assume are 
Adapted to each 
Individual humour, 
Beautiful facts or true 
Test cases in Law or 
Market quotations: 
As figures and formulae 
Chemists have seen us, 
Who to true lovers were 
Putti of Venus. 

Ambiguous causes 
Of all temptation, 
We lure men either 
To death or salvation: 
We alone may look over 
The wall of that hidden 
Garden whose entrance 
To him is forbidden; 
Must truthfully tell him 
What happens inside, 
But what it may mean he 
Alone must decide. 



The garden is unchanged, the silence is unbroken. 
Truth has not yet intruded to possess 
Its empty morning nor the promised hour 
Shaken its lasting May. 


The human night, 

Whose messengers we are, cannot dispel 
Its wanton dreams, and they are all we know. 



My senses are still coarse 

From late engrossment in a fair. Old tunes 

Reiterated, lights with repeated winks, 

Were fascinating like a tic and brought 

Whole populations running to a plain, 

Making its lush alluvial meadows 

One boisterous preposter. By the river 

A whistling crowd had waited many hours 

To see a naked woman swim upstream; 

Honours and reckless medicines were served 

In booths where interest was lost 

As easily as money; at the back, 

In a wet vacancy among the ash cans, 

A 'waiter coupled sadly with a crow. 


I have but now escaped a raging landscape: 
There woods were in a tremor from the shouts 
Of hunchbacks hunting a hermaphrodite; 
A burning village scampered down a lane; 
Insects with ladders stormed a virgin's house; 
On a green knoll littered with picnics 
A mob of horses kicked a gull to death. 


Remembrance of the moment before last 
Is like a yawning drug. I have observed 
The sombre valley of an industry 
n dereliction. Conduits, ponds, canals, 
'Distressed with weeds; engines and furnaces 
At rust in rotting sheds; and their strong users 
Transformed to spongy heaps of drunken flesh. 
Deep among dock and dusty nettle lay 
Each ruin of a will; manors of mould 
Grew into empires as a westering sun 
Left the air chilly; not a sound disturbed 
The autumn dusk except a stertorous snore 

AUDEN: For the Time Being 

That over their drowned condition like a sea 
Wept without grief. 


My recent company 

Was worse than your three visions. Where I was, 
The haunting ghosts were figures with no ground, 
Areas of wide omission and vast regions 
Of passive colours; higher than any squeak, 
One note went on for ever; an embarrassed sum 
Stuck on the stutter of a decimal, 
And points almost coincident already 
Approached so slowly they could never meet. 
There nothing could be stated or constructed: 
To Be was an archaic nuisance. 


Look. There is someone in the garden. 


The garden is unchanged, the silence is unbroken 

For she is still walking in her sleep of childhood: 

Many before 

Have wandered in, like her, then wandered out 

Unconscious of their visit and unaltered, 

The garden unchanged, the silence unbroken: 

None may wake there but One who shall be woken. 





Mary, in a dream of love 
Playing as all children play, 
For unsuspecting children may 


Express in comic make-believe 

The wish that later they will know 

Is tragic and impossible; 

Hear, child, what I am sent to tell: 

Love wills your dream to happen, so 

Love's will on earth may be, through you, 

No longer a pretend but true. 

What dancing joy would whirl 

My ignorance away? 

Light blazes out of the stone, 

The taciturn water 

Burst into music, 

And warm wings throb within 

The motionless rose: 

What sudden rush of Power 

Commands me to command? 


When Eve, in love with her own will, 
Denied the will of Love and fell, 
She turned the flesh Love knew so well 
To knowledge of her love until 
Both love and knowledge were of sin: 
What her negation wounded, may 
Your affirmation heal today; 
Love's will requires your own, that in 
The flesh whose love you do not know, 
Love's knowledge into flesh may grow. 

My flesh in terror and fire 

Rejoices that the Word 

Who utters the world out of nothing, 

As a pledge of His word to love her 

Against her will, and to turn 

Her desperate longing to love, 

AUDEN: For the Time Being 25 

Should ask to wear me, 

From now to their wedding day, 

For an engagement ring. 


Since Adam, being free to choose, 
Chose to imagine he was free 
To choose his own necessity, 
Lost in his freedom, Man pursues 
The shadow of his images: 
Today the Unknown seeks the known; 
What I am willed to ask, your own 
Will has to answer; child, it lies 
Within your power of choosing to 
Conceive the Child who chooses you. 



Let number and weight rejoice 
In this hour of their translation 
Into conscious happiness: 
For the whole in every part, 
The truth at the proper centre 
(There's a Way. There's a Voice.) 
Of language and distress 
Is recognised in her heart 
Singing and dancing. 

Let even the great rejoice. 
Though buffeted by admirers 
And arrogant as noon, 
The rich and the lovely have seen 
For an infinitesimal moment 
(There's a Way. There's a Voice.) 
In another's eye till their own 
Reflection came between, 
Singing and dancing. 


Let even the small rejoice 

Though threatened from purple rostra 

And dazed by the soldier's drum 

Proclaiming total defeat, 

The general loquacious Public 

( There's a 'Way. There 9 $ a Voice. ) 

Have been puzzled and struck dumb, 

Hearing in every street 

Singing and dancing. 

Let even the young rejoice 
Lovers at their betrayal 
Weeping alone in the night, 
Have fallen asleep as they heard, 
Though too far off to be certain 
(There's a Way. There's a Voice.) 
They had not imagined it, 
Sounds that made grief absurd, 
Singing and dancing. 

Let even the old rejoice 

The Bleak and the Dim, abandoned 

By impulse and regret, 

Are startled out of their lives; 

For to footsteps long expected 

(There's a Way. There's a Voice.) 

Their ruins echo, yet 

The Demolisher arrives 

Singing and dancing. 



My shoes were shined, my pants were 

cleaned and pressed, 

AUDEN: For the Time Being 27 

And I was hurrying to meet 

My own true Love: 
But a great crowd grew and grew 
Till I could not push my way through, 

A star had fallen down the street; 

When they saw who I was, 
The police tried to do their best. 

CHORUS (off): 

Joseph, you have heard 
What Mary says occurred; 
Yes, it may be so. 
Is it likely? No. 


The bar was gay, the lighting well-designed, 
And I was sitting down to wait 

My own true Love: 
A voice I'd heard before, I think, 
Cried: "This is on the House. I drink 

To him 
Who does not know it is too late"; 

When I asked for the time, 
Everyone was very kind. 

CHORUS (off) : 

Mary may be pure, 

But, Joseph, are you sure? 

How is one to tell? 

Suppose, for instance . . . Well . . . 


Through cracks, up ladders, into waters deep* 
I squeezed, I climbed, I swam to save 

My own true Love: 
Under a dead apple tree 
I saw an ass; when it saw me 


It brayed; 
A hermit sat in the mouth of a cave; 

When I asked him the way, 
He pretended to be asleep. 

CHORUS (off): 

Maybe, maybe not. 
But, Joseph, you know what 
Your world, of course, will say 
About you anyway. 


Where are you, Father, where? 
Caught in the jealous trap 
Of an empty house I hear 
As I sit alone in the dark 
Everything, everything, 
The drip of the bathroom tap, 
The creak of the sofa spring, 
The wind in the air-shaft, all 
Making the same remark 
Stupidly, stupidly, 
Over and over again. 
Father, what have I done? 
Answer me, Father, how 
Can I answer the tactless wall 
Or the pompous furniture now? 
Answer them . . . 


No, you must. 


How then am I to know, 
Father, that you are just? 
Give me one reason. 



AUDEN: For the Time Being 29 


All I ask is one 
Important and elegant proof 
That what my Love had done 
Was really at your will 
And that your will is Love. 


No, you must believe; 
Be silent, and sit still. 



For the perpetual excuse 
Of Adam for his fall "My little Eve, 
God bless her, did beguile me and I ate,* 7 

For his insistance on a nurse, 
All service, breast, and lap, for giving Fate 
Feminine gender to make girls believe 
That they can save him, you must now atone, 

Joseph, in silence and alone; 

While she who loves you makes you shake with fright, 
Your love for her must tuck you up and kiss good night. 

For likening Love to war, for all 
The pay-off lines of limericks in which 
The weak resentful bar-fly shows his sting, 

For talking of their spiritual 
Beauty to chorus-girls, for flattering 
The features of old gorgons who are rich, 
For the impudent grin and Irish charm 

That hides a cold will to do harm. 
Today the roles are altered; you must be 
The Weaker Sex whose passion is passivity. 

For those delicious memories 
Cigars and sips of brandy can restore 


To old dried boys, for gallantry that scrawls 

In idolatrous detail and size 
A symbol of aggression on toilet walls, 
For having reasoned "Woman is naturally pure 
Since she has no moustache," for having said, 

"No woman has a business head," 
You must learn now that masculinity, 
To Nature, is a non-essential luxury. 

Lest, finding it impossible 
To judge its object now or throatily 
Forgive it as eternal God forgives, 

Lust, tempted by this miracle 
To more ingenious evil, should contrive 
A heathen fetish from Virginity 
To soothe the spiritual petulance 

Of worn-out rakes and maiden aunts, 
Forgetting nothing and believing all, 
You must behave as if this were not strange at all. 

Without a change in look or word, 
You both must act exactly as before; 
Joseph and Mary shall be man and wife 

Just as if nothing had occurred. 
There is one World of Nature and one Life; 
Sin fractures the Vision, not the Fact; for 
The Exceptional is always usual 

And the Usual exceptional. 
To choose what is difficult all one's days 
As if it were easy, that is faith. Joseph, praise. 



Joseph, Mary, pray for those 
Misled by moonlight and the rose, 
For all in our perplexity. 
Lovers who hear a distant bell 

AUDEN: For the Time Being 31 

That tolls from somewhere in their head 

Across the valley of their dream 

"All those who love excessively 

Foot or thigh or arm or face 

Pursue a louche and fatuous fire 

And stumble into Heir 

Yet what can such foreboding seem 

But intellectual talk 

So long as bodies walk 

An earth where Time and Space 

Turn Heaven to a finite bed 

And Love into desire? 

Pray for us, enchanted with 

The green Bohemia of that myth 

Where knowledge of the flesh can take 

The guilt of being born away, 

Simultaneous passions make 

One eternal chastity: 

Pray for us romantics, pray. 


Joseph, Mary, pray for us. 
Independent embiyos who, 
Unconscious in another, do 
Evil as each creature does 
In every definite decision 
To improve; for even in 
The germ-cell's primary division 
Innocence is lost and sin, 
Already given as a fact, 
Once more issues as an act. 


Joseph, Mary, pray for all 
The proper and conventional 
Of whom this world approves. 
Pray for us whose married loves 
Acquire so readily 


The indolent fidelity 

Of unaired beds, for us to whom 

Domestic hatred can become 

A habit-forming drug, whose will 

To civil anarchy, 

Uses disease to disobey 

And makes our private bodies ill. 

O pray for our salvation 

Who take the prudent way, 

Believing we shall be exempted 

From the general condemnation 

Because our self-respect is tempted 

To incest not adultery: 

O pray for us, the bourgeoisie. 



Joseph, Mary, pray 

For us children as in play 

Upon the nursery floor 

We gradually explore 

Our members till our jealous lives 

Have worked through to a clear 

But trivial idea 

Of that whence each derives 

A vague but massive feel 

Of being individual. 

O pray for our redemption; for 

The will that occupies 

Our sensual infancy 

Already is mature 

And could immediately 

Beget upon our flesh far more 

Expressions of its disbelief 

Than we shall manage to conceive 

In a long life of lies. 

Blessed Woman, 
Excellent Man, 

AUDEN: For the Time Being 33 

Redeem for the dull the 

Average Way, 

That common ungif ted 

Natures may 

Believe that their normal 

Vision can 

Walk to perfection. 



I am that star most dreaded by the wise, 
For they are drawn against their will to me, 
Yet read in my procession through the skies 
The doom of orthodox sophrosyne: 
I shall discard their major preservation, 
All that they know so long as no one asks; 
I shall deprive them of their minor tasks 
In free and legal households of sensation, 
Of money, picnics, beer, and sanitation. 

Beware. All those who follow me are led 
Onto that Glassy Mountain where are no 
Footholds for logic, to that Bridge of Dread 
Where knowledge but increases vertigo: 
Those who pursue me take a twisting lane 
To find themselves immediately alone 
With savage water or unfeeling stone, 
In labyrinths where they must entertain 
Confusion, cripples, tigers, thunder, pain. 


To break down Her defences 
And profit from the vision 


That plain men can predict through an 
Ascesis of their senses, 

With rack and screw I put Nature through 

A thorough inquisition: 

But She was so afraid that if I were disappointed 
I should hurt Her more that Her answers were disjointed 

I did. I didn't. I will. I won't. 
She is just as big a liar, in fact, as we are. 

To discover how to be truthful now 

Is the reason I follow this star. 


My faith that in Time's constant 

Flow lay real assurance 
Broke down on this analysis 

At any given instant 
All solids dissolve, no wheels revolve, 

And facts have no endurance 
And who knows if it is by design or pure inadvertence 
That the Present destroys its inherited self-importance? 

With envy, terror, rage, regret, 
We anticipate or remember but never are. 
To discover how to be living now 
Is the reason I follow this star. 


Observing how myopic 

Is the Venus of the Soma, 
The concept Ought would make, I thought, 

Our passions philanthropic, 
And rectify in the sensual eye 

Both lens-flare and lens-coma: 
But arriving at the Greatest Good by introspection 
And counting the Greater Number, left no time for affection, 

Laughter, kisses, squeezing, smiles: 

And I learned why the learned are as despised as they are. 
To discover how to be loving now 
Is the reason I follow this star. 

AXJDEN: For the Time Being 35 


The weather has been awful, 
The countryside is dreary, 
Marsh, jungle, rock; and echoes mock, 

Calling our hope unlawful; 
But a silly song can help along 

Yours ever and sincerely: 

At least we know for certain that we are three old sinners, 
That this journey is much too long, that we want our dinners, 

And miss our wives, our books, our dogs, 
But have only the vaguest idea why we are what we are. 
To discover how to be human now 
Is the reason we follow this star. 


Descend into the fosse of Tribulation, 

Take the cold hand of Terror for a guide; 

Below you in its swirling desolation 

Hear tortured Horror roaring for a bride: 

O do not falter at the last request 

But, as the huge deformed head rears to kill, 

Answer its craving with a clear I Will; 

Then wake, a child in the rose-garden, pressed 

Happy and sobbing to your lover's breast. 



Now let the wife look up from her stove, the husband 
Interrupt his work, the child put down its toy, 
That His voice may be heard in our Just Society 

Who under the sunlight 

Of His calm, possessing the good earth, do well. Pray 
Silence for Caesar: stand motionless and hear 
In a concourse of body and concord of soul 

His proclamation. 





You have been listening to the voice of Caesar 

Who overcame implacable Necessity 

By His endurance and by His skill has subdued the 

Welter of Fortune. 

It is meet, therefore, that, before dispersing 
In pious equanimity to obey His orders, 
With well-tuned instruments and grateful voices 

We should praise Caesar. 



Great is Caesar: He has conquered Seven Kingdoms. 

The First was the Kingdom of Abstract Idea: 

Last night it was Tom, Dick and Harry; tonight it is S's 


Instead of inflexions and accents 
There are prepositions and word-order; 
Instead of aboriginal objects excluding each other 
There are specimens reiterating a type; 
Instead of wood-nymphs and river-demons, 
There is one unconditioned ground of Being. 
Great is Caesar: God must be with Him. 

Great is Caesar: He has conquered Seven Kingdoms. 
The Second was the Kingdom of Natural Cause: 

AUDEN: For the Time Being 37 

Last night it was Sixes and Sevens; tonight it is One and 


Instead of saying, "Strange are the whims of the Strong," 
We say, "Harsh is the Law but it is certain"; 
Instead of building temples, we build laboratories; 
Instead of offering sacrifices, we perform experiments; 
Instead of reciting prayers, we note pointer-readings; 
Our lives are no longer erratic but efficient. 
Great is Caesar: God must be with Him. 

Great is Caesar; He has conquered Seven Kingdoms. 
The Third was the Kingdom of Infinite Number: 
Last night it was Rule-of -Thumb, tonight it is To-a-T; 
Instead of Quite-a-lot, there is Exactly-so-many; 
Instead of Only-a-few, there is Just-these; 
Instead of saying, "You must wait until I have counted," 
We say, "Here you are. You will find this answer correct"; 
Instead of a nodding acquaintance with a few integers 
The Transcendentals are our personal friends. 
Great is Caesar: God must be with Him. 

Great is Caesar: He has conquered Seven Kingdoms. 

The Fourth was the Kingdom of Credit Exchange: 

Last night it was Tit-for-Tat, tonight it is C.O.D.; 

When we have a surplus, we need not meet someone with 

a deficit; 
When we have a deficit, we need not meet someone with 

a surplus; 
Instead of heavy treasures, there are paper symbols of 


Instead of Pay at Once, there is Pay when you can; 
Instead of My Neighbour, there is Our Customers; 
Instead of Country Fair, there is World Market 
Great is Caesar: God must be with Him. 

Great is Caesar; He has conquered Seven Kingdoms. 
The Fifth was the Kingdom of Inorganic Giants: 
Last night it was Heave-Ho, tonight it is Whee-Spree; 


When we want anything, They make it; 

When we dislike anything, They change it; 

When we want to go anywhere, They carry us; 

When the Barbarian invades us, They raise immovabL 

When we invade the Barbarian, They brandish irresistible 


Fate is no longer a fiat of Matter, but a freedom of Mind 
Great is Caesar: God must be with Him. 

Great is Caesar: He has conquered Seven Kingdoms. 
The Sixth was the Kingdom of Organic Dwarfs: 
Last night it was Ouch-Ouch, tonight it is Yum-Yum; 
When diseases waylay us, They strike them dead; 
When worries intrude on us, They throw them out; 
When pain accosts us, They save us from embarrassment; 
When we feel like sheep, They make us lions; 
When we feel like geldings, They make us stallions; 
Spirit is no longer under Flesh, but on top. 
Great is Caesar: God must be with Him. 

Great is Caesar: He has conquered Seven Kingdoms. 

The Seventh was the Kingdom of Popular Soul: 

Last night it was Order-Order, tonight it is Hear-Hear; 

When he says, You are happy, we laugh; 

When he says, You are wretched, we cry; 

When he says, It is true, everyone believes it; 

When he says, It is false, no one believes it; 

When he says, This is good, this is loved; 

When he says, That is bad, that is hated. 

Great is Caesar: God must be with Him. 



These are stirring times for the editors of newspapers: 

History is in the making; Mankind is on the march. 

AUDEN: For the Time Being 39 

The longest aqueduct in the world is already 
Under construction; the Committees on Fen-Drainage 
And Soil-Conservation will issue very shortly 
Their Joint Report; even the problems of Trade Cycles 
And Spiralling Prices are regarded by the experts 
As practically solved; and the recent restrictions 
Upon aliens and free-thinking Jews are beginning 
To have a salutary effect upon public morale. 
True, the Western seas are still infested with pirates, 
And the rising power of the Barbarian in the North 
Is giving some cause for uneasiness; but we are fully 
Alive to these dangers; we are rapidly arming; and both 
Will be taken care of in due course: then, united 
In a sense of common advantage and common right, 
Our great Empire shall be secure for a thousand years. 

If we were never alone or always too busy, 
Perhaps we might even believe what we know is not true: 
But no one is taken in, at least not all of the time; 
In our bath, or the subway, or the middle of the night, 
We know very well we are not unlucky but evil, 
That the dream of a Perfect State or No State at all, 
To which we fly for refuge, is a part of our punishment. 

Let us therefore be contrite but without anxiety, 
For Powers and Times are not gods but mortal gifts from 


Let us acknowledge our defeats but without despair, 
For all societies and epochs are transient details, 
Transmitting an everlasting opportunity 
That the Kingdom of Heaven may come, not in our present 
And not in our future, but in the Fullness of Time. 
Let us pray. 


Our Father, whose creative Will 
Asked Being for us all, 


Confirm it that Thy Primal Love 
May weave in us the freedom of 
The actually deficient on 
The justly actual. 

Though written by Thy children with 

A smudged and crooked line, 
The Word is ever legible, 
Thy Meaning unequivocal, 
And for Thy Goodness even sin 
Is valid as a sign. 

Inflict Thy promises with each 

Occasion of distress, 
That from our incoherence we 
May learn to put our trust in Thee, 
And brutal fact persuade us to 

Adventure, Art, and Peace. 



The winter night requires our constant attention, 

Watching that water and good-will, 
Warmth and well-being, may still be there in the morning. 


For behind the spontaneous joy of life 
There is always a mechanism to keep going, 


And someone like us is always there. 

AXJDEN: For the Time Being 41 


We observe that those who assure us their education 

And money would do us such harm, 
How real we are just as we are, and how they envy us, 

For it is the centreless tree 
And the uncivilised robin who are the truly happy, 

Have done pretty well for themselves: 


Nor can we help noticing how those who insist that 

We ought to stand up for our rights, 
And how important we are, keep insisting also 

That it doesn't matter a bit 
If one of us gets arrested or injured, for 

It is only our numbers that count. 


In a way they are right, 


But to behave like a cogwheel 
When one knows one is no such tiling, 


Merely to add to a crowd with one's passionate body, 
Is not a virtue. 


What is real 
About us all is that each of us is waiting. 


That is why we are able to bear 
Ready-made clothes, second-hand art and opinions 
And being washed and ordered about; 


That is why you should not take our conversation 


Too seriously, nor read too much 
Into our songs; 


Their purpose is mainly to keep us 
From watching the clock all the time. 


For, though we cannot say why, we know that something 
Will happen: 


What we cannot say, 


Except that it will not be a reporter's item 
Of unusual human interest; 


That always means something unpleasant. 


But one day or 
The next we shall hear the Good News, 



Levers nudge the aching wrist; 

'TTou are free 

Not to be, 

Why exist?" 
Wheels a thousand times a minute 

Mutter, stutter, 

"End the self you cannot mend, 
Did you, friend, begin it?" 

And the streets 

AUDEN: For the Time Being 43 

Sniff at our defeats. 
Then who is the Unknown 
Who answers for our fear 
As if it were His own, 
So that we reply 
Till the day we die; 
"No, I don't know why, 
But I'm glad I'm here"? 



Unto you a Child, 
A Son is given. 
Praising, proclaiming 
The ingression of Love, 
Earth's darkness invents 
The blaze of Heaven, 
And frigid silence 
Meditates a song; 
For great joy has filled 
The narrow and the sad, 
While the emphasis 
Of the rough and big, 
The abiding crag 
And wandering wave, 
Is on forgiveness: 
Sing Glory to God 
And good-will to men, 
All, all, aU of them. 
Run to Bethlehem. 


Let us run to learn 
How to love and run; 
Let us run to Love. 





Now all things living, 

Domestic or wild, 

With whom you must share 

Light, -water, and air, 

And suffer and shake 

In physical need, 

The sullen limpet, 

The exuberant weed, 

The mischievous cat, 

And the timid bird, 

Are glad for your sake 

As the new-born \Vord 

Declares that the old 


Constraint is replaced 

By His Covenant, 

And a city based 

On love and consent 

Suggested to men, 

All, all, all of them. 

Run to Bethlehem. 

TLet us run to learn 
How to love and run,; 
Let us run to 

The primitive dead 
Progress in your blood, 
And generations 
Of the unborn, all 
Are leaping for joy 
In your veins today 
When the Many shall, 
Once in your common 
Certainty of this 

AXJDEN: For the Time Being 45 

Child's lovableness, 
Resemble the One, 
That after today 
The children of men 
May be certain that 
The Father Abyss 
Is affectionate 
To all Its creatures, 
AH, all, all of them. 
Run to Bethlehem. 



O shut your bright eyes that mine must endanger 
With their watchfulness; protected by its shade 
Escape from my care: what can you discover 
From my tender look but how to be afraid? 
Love can but confirm the more it would deny. 
Close your bright eye. 

Sleep. What have you learned from the womb that bore you 
But an anxiety your Father cannot feel? 
Sleep. What will the flesh that I gave do for you, 
Or my mother love, but tempt you from His will? 
Why was I chosen to teach His Son to weep? 
Little One, sleep. 

Dream. In human dreams earth ascends to Heaven 
Where no one need pray nor ever feel alone. 
In your first few hours of life here, O have you 
Chosen already what death must be your own? 


How soon will you start on the Sorrowful Way? 
Dream while you may. 



Led by the light of an unusual star, 

We hunted high and low. 


Have travelled far, 
For many days, a little group alone 
With doubts, reproaches, boredom, the unknown. 

Through stifling gorges. 


Over level lakes, 


Tundras intense and irresponsive seas. 


In vacant crowds and humming silences, 


By ruined arches and past modern shops, 


Counting the miles, 


And the absurd mistakes. 


O here and now our endless journey stops. 

AUDEN: For the Time Being 47 


We never left the place where we were born, 


Have only lived one day, but every day, 


Have walked a thousand miles yet only worn 
The grass between our work and home away. 


Lonely we were though never left alone. 


The solitude familiar to the poor 

Is feeling that the family next door, 

The way it talks, eats, dresses, loves, and hates, 

Is indistinguishable from one's own. 


Tonight for the first time the prison gates 
Have opened. 


Music and sudden light 


Have interrupted our routine tonight, 


And swept the filth of habit from our hearts. 


O here and now our endless journey starts. 


Our arrogant longing to attain the tomb, 



Our sullen wish to go back to the womb, 


To have no past. 


No future, 


Is refused. 

And yet, without our knowledge, Love has used 
Our weakness as a guard and guide. 

We bless 


Our lives* impatience. 


Our lives* laziness, 


And bless each other's sin, exchanging here 


Exceptional conceit 


With average fear. 

Released by Love from isolating wrong, 
Let us for Love unite our various song, 
Each with his gift according to his kind 
Bringing this child his body and his mind. 

AUDEN: For the Time Being 49 



Child, at whose birth we would do obsequy 
For our tall errors of imagination, 
Redeem our talents with your little cry. 


Clinging like sheep to the earth for protection, 
We have not ventured far in any direction: 

Wean, Child, our ageing flesh away 

From its childish way. 


Love is more serious than Philosophy 
Who sees no humour in her observation 
That Truth is knowing that we know we lie. 


When, to escape what our memories are thinking, 
We go out at nights and stay up drinking, 

Stay then with our sick pride and mind 

The forgetful mind. 


Love does not will enraptured apathy; 

Fate plays the passive role of dumb temptation 

To wills where Love can doubt, affirm, deny. 


When, chafing at the rule of old offences, 
We run away to the sea of the senses, 

On strange beds then O welcome home 

Our horror of home. 


Love knows of no somatic tyranny; 


For homes are built for Love's accommodation 
By bodies from the void they occupy. 


When, exhausting our wills with our evil courses, 
We demand the good-will of cards and horses, 
Be then our lucky certainty 
Of uncertainty. 


Love does not fear substantial anarchy, 
But vividly expresses obligation 
With movement and in spontaneity. 


When, feeling the great boots of the rich on our faces, 
We live in the hope of one day changing places, 

Be then the truth of our abuse 

That we abuse. 


The singular is not Love's enemy; 
Love's possibilities of realisation 
Require an Otherness that can say I 


When in dreams the beasts and cripples of resentment 
Rampage and revel to our hearts* contentment, 

Be then the poetry of hate 

That replaces hate. 


Not In but With our time Love's energy 
Exhibits Love's immediate operation; 
The choice to love is open till we die. 


O Living Love, by your birth we are able 
Not only, like the ox and ass of the stable, 

: For the Time Being 51 

To love with our live wills, but love, 
Knowing we love. 


O Living Love replacing phantasy, 

O Joy of life revealed in Love's creation; 

Our mood of longing turns to indication: 

Space is the Whom our loves are needed by, 

Time is our choice of How to love and Why. 


SIMEON: As long as the apple had not been entirely di- 
gested, as long as there remained the least understand- 
ing between Adam and the stars, rivers and horses with 
whom he had once known complete intimacy, as long 
as Eve could share in any way with the moods of the 
rose or the ambitions of the swallow, there was still a 
hope that the effects of the poison would wear off, that 
the exile from Paradise was only a bad dream, that the 
Fall had not occurred in fact. 

CHORUS: When we woke, it was day; we went on weeping. 

SIMEON: As long as there were any roads to amnesia and 
anaesthesia still to be explored, any rare wine or curiosity 
of cuisine as yet untested, any erotic variation as yet un- 
imagined or unrealised, any method of torture as yet un- 
devised, any style of conspicuous waste as yet unin- 
dulged, any eccentricity of mania or disease as yet 
unrepresented, there was still a hope that man had not 
been poisoned but transformed, that Paradise was not an 
eternal state from which he had been forever expelled, 
but a childish state which he had permanently outgrown, 
that the Fall had occurred by necessity. 

CHORUS: We danced in the dark, but were not deceived. 

SIMEON: As long as there were any experiments still to be 


undertaken in restoring that order in which desire had 
once rejoiced to be reflected, any code of equity and 
obligation upon which some society had not yet been 
founded, any species of property of which the value had 
not yet been appreciated, any talent that had not yet 
won private devotion and public honour, any rational 
concept of the Good or intuitive feeling for the Holy 
that had not yet found its precise and beautiful expres- 
sion, any technique of contemplation or ritual of sacri- 
fice and praise that had not yet been properly conducted, 
any faculty of mind or body that had not yet been thor- 
oughly disciplined, there was still a hope that some anti- 
dote might be found, that the gates of Paradise had in- 
deed slammed to, but with the exercise of a little 
patience and ingenuity would be unlocked, that the Fall 
had occurred by accident. 

CHORUS: Lions came loping into the lighted city. 

SIMEON: Before the Positive could manifest Itself specifi- 
cally, it was necessary that nothing should be left that 
negation could remove; the emancipation of Time from 
Space had first to be complete, the Revolution of the 
Images, in which the memories rose up and cast into 
subjection the senses by Whom hitherto they had been 
enslaved, successful beyond their wildest dreams, the 
mirror in which the Soul expected to admire herself so 
perfectly polished that her natural consolation of vague- 
ness should be utterly withdrawn. 

CHORUS: We looked at our Shadow, and, Lo, it was lame. 

SIMEON: Before the Infinite could manifest Itself in the 
finite, it was necessary that man should first have reached 
that point along his road to Knowledge where, just as it 
rises from the swamps of Confusion onto the sunny 
slopes of Objectivity, it forks in opposite directions to- 
wards the One and the Many; where, therefore, in order 
to proceed at all, he must decide which is Real and 
which only Appearance, yet at the same time cannot 
escape the knowledge that his choice is arbitrary and 

AUDEN: For the Time Being 53 

CHORUS: Promising to meet, we parted forever. 

SIMEON: Before the Unconditional could manifest Itself 
under the conditions of existence, it was necessary that 
man should first have reached the ultimate frontier of 
consciousness, the secular limit of memory beyond which 
there remained but one thing for him to know, his 
Original Sin, but of this it is impossible for him to be- 
come conscious because it is itself what conditions his 
will to knowledge. For as long as he was in Paradise 
he could not sin by any conscious intention or act: his 
as yet unfallen will could only rebel against the truth by 
taking flight into an unconscious lie; he could only eat 
of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil by for- 
getting that its existence was a fiction of the Evil One, 
that there is only the Tree of Life. 

CHORUS: The bravest drew back on the brink of the Abyss. 

SIMEON: From the beginning until now God spoke through 
His prophets. The Word aroused the uncomprehending 
depths of their flesh to a witnessing fury, and their wit- 
ness was this: that the Word should be made Flesh. Yet 
their witness could only be received as long as it was 
vaguely misunderstood, as long as it seemed either to be 
neither impossible nor necessary, or necessary but not 
impossible, or impossible but not necessary; and the 
prophecy could not therefore be fulfilled. For it could 
only be fulfilled when it was no longer possible to re- 
ceive, because it was clearly understood as absurd. The 
Word could not be made Flesh until men had reached 
a state of absolute contradiction between clarity and 
despair in which they would have no choice but either to 
accept absolutely or to reject absolutely, yet in their 
choice there should be no element of luck, for they would 
be fully conscious of what they were accepting or re- 

CHORUS: The eternal spaces were congested and depraved. 

SIMEON: But here and now the Word which is implicit in 
the Beginning and in the End is become immediately ex- 
plicit, and that which hitherto we could only passively 


fear as the incomprehensible I AM, henceforth we may 
actively love with comprehension that THOU ART. 
Wherefore, having seen Him, not in some prophetic 
vision of what might be, but with the eyes of our own 
weakness as to what actually is, we are bold to say that 
we have seen our salvation. 

CHORUS: Now and forever, we are not alone. 

SIMEON: By the event of this birth the true significance of 
all other events is defined, for of every other occasion it 
can be said that it could have been different, but of this 
birth it is the case that it could in no way be other than 
it is. And by the existence of this Child, the proper value 
of all other existences is given, for of every other crea- 
ture it can be said that it has extrinsic importance but 
of this Child it is the case that He is in no sense a sym- 

CHORUS: We have right to believe that we really exist. 

SIMEON: By Him is dispelled the darkness wherein the 
fallen will cannot distinguish between temptation and 
sin, for in Him we become fully conscious of Necessity 
as our freedom to be tempted, and of Freedom as our 
necessity to have faith. And by Him is illuminated the 
time in which we execute those choices through which 
our freedom is realised or prevented, for the course of 
History is predictable in the degree to which all men 
love themselves, and spontaneous in the degree to which 
each man loves God and through Him his neighbour. 

CHORUS: The distresses of choice are our chance to be 

SIMEON: Because in Him the Flesh is united to the Word 
without magical transformation, Imagination is redeemed 
from promiscuous fornication with her own images. The 
tragic conflict of Virtue with Necessity is no longer con- 
fined to the Exceptional Hero; for disaster is not the im- 
pact of a curse upon a few great families, but issues 
continually from the hubris of every tainted will. Every 
invalid is Roland defending the narrow pass against hope- 
less odds, every stenographer Brunnhilde refusing to 

AUDEN: For the Time Being 55 

renounce her lover's ring which came into existence 
through the renunciation of love. 

Nor is the Ridiculous a species any longer of the Ugly; 
for since of themselves all men are without merit, all are 
ironically assisted to their comic bewilderment by the 
Grace of God. Every Cabinet Minister is the wood- 
cutter's simple-minded son to whom the fishes and the 
crows are always whispering the whereabouts of the 
Dancing Water or the Singing Branch, every heiress 
the washerwoman's butter-fingered daughter on whose 
pillow the fairy keeps laying the herb that could cure the 
Prince's mysterious illness. 

Nor is there any situation which is essentially more or 
less interesting than another. Every tea-table is a battle- 
field littered with old catastrophes and haunted by the 
vague ghosts of vast issues, every martyrdom an occa- 
sion for flip cracks and sententious oratory. 

Because in Him all passions find a logical In-Order- 
That, by Him is the perpetual recurrence of Art assured. 

CHORUS: Safe in His silence, our songs are at play. 

SIMEON: Because in Him the Word is united to the Flesh 
without loss of perfection, Reason is redeemed from 
incestuous fixation on her own Logic, for the One and 
the Many are simultaneously revealed as real. So that we 
may no longer, with the Barbarians, deny the Unity, 
asserting that there are as many gods as there are crea- 
tures, nor, with the philosophers, deny the Multiplicity, 
asserting that God is One who has no need of friends and 
is indifferent to a World of Time and Quantity and 
Horror which He did not create, nor, with Israel, may 
we limit the co-inherence of the One and the Many to a 
special case, asserting that God is only concerned with 
and of concern to that People whom out of all that He 
created He has chosen for His own. 

For the Truth is indeed One, without which is no 
salvation, but the possibilities of real knowledge are as 
many as are the creatures in the very real and most ex- 
citing universe that God creates with and for His love, 


and it is not Nature which is one public illusion, but we 
who have each our many private illusions about Nature. 
Because in Him abstraction finds a passionate For- 
The-Sake-Of, by Him is the continuous development 
of Science assured. 

CHORUS: Our lost Appearances are saved by His love. 

SIMEON: And because of His visitation, we may no longer 
desire God as if He were lacking: our redemption is no 
longer a question of pursuit but of surrender to Him who 
is always and everywhere present. Therefore at every 
moment we pray that, following Him, we may depart 
from our anxiety into His peace. 

CHORUS: Its errors forgiven, may our Vision come home. 


HEROD: Because I am bewildered, because I must decide, 
because my decision must be in conformity with Nature 
and Necessity, let me honour those through whom my 
nature is by necessity what it is. 

To Fortune that I have become Tetrarch, that I have 
escaped assassination, that at sixty my head is clear 
and my digestion sound. 
To my Father f or the means to gratify my love of 

travel and study. 

To my Mother for a straight nose. 
To Eva, my coloured nurse for regular habits. 
To my brother, Sandy, who married a trapeze-artist 
and died of drink for so refuting the position of 
the Hedonists. 
To Mr. Stewart, nicknamed: The Carp, who instructed 

ATJDEN: For the Time Being 57 

me in the elements of geometry through which I 
came to perceive the errors of the tragic poets. 

To Professor Lighthouse for his lectures on The 
Peloponnesian War. 

To the stranger on the boat to Sicily for recommend- 
ing to me Brown on Resolution. 

To my secretary, Miss Button for admitting that my 
speeches were inaudible. 

There is no visible disorder. No crime what could 
be more innocent than the birth of an artisan's child? To- 
day has been one of those perfect winter days, cold, 
brilliant, and utterly still, when the bark of a shepherd's 
dog carries for miles, and the great wild mountains come 
up quite close to the city walls, and the mind feels in- 
tensely awake, and this evening as I stand at this win- 
dow high up in the citadel there is nothing in the whole 
magnificent panorama of plain and mountains to indi- 
cate that the Empire is threatened by a danger more 
dreadful than any invasion of Tartars on racing camels 
or conspiracy of the Praetorian Guard. 

Barges are unloading soil fertiliser at the river wharves. 
Soft drinks and sandwiches may be had in the inns at 
reasonable prices. Allotment gardening has become popu- 
lar. The highway to the coast goes straight up over the 
mountains and the truck-drivers no longer carry guns. 
Things are beginning to take shape. It is a long time 
since anyone stole the park benches or murdered the 
swans. There are children in this province who have 
never seen a louse, shopkeepers who have never handled 
a counterfeit coin, women of forty who have never hid- 
den in a ditch except for fun. Yes, in twenty years I 
have managed to do a little. Not enough, of course. 
There are villages only a few miles from here where 
they still believe in witches. There isn't a single town 
where a good bookshop would pay. One could count on 
the fingers of one hand the people capable of solving the 


problem of Achilles and the Tortoise. Still it is a begin- 
ning. In twenty years the darkness has been pushed back 
a few inches. And what, after all, is the whole Empire, 
with its few thousand square miles on which it is possible 
to lead the Rational Life, but a tiny patch of light com- 
pared with those immense areas of barbaric night that 
surround it on all sides, that incoherent wilderness of 
rage and terror, where Mongolian idiots are regarded as 
sacred and mothers who give birth to twins are instantly 
put to death, where malaria is treated by yelling, where 
warriors of superb courage obey the commands of hys- 
terical female impersonators, where the best cuts of meat 
are reserved for the dead, where, if a white blackbird 
has been seen, no more work may be done that day, 
where it is firmly believed that the world was created 
by a giant with three heads or that the motions of the 
stars are controlled from the liver of a rogue elephant? 

Yet even inside this little civilised patch itself, where, 
at the cost of heaven knows how much grief and blood- 
shed, it has been made unnecessary for anyone over the 
age of twelve to believe in fairies or that First Causes 
reside in mortal and finite objects, so many are still home- 
sick for that disorder wherein every passion formerly en- 
joyed a frantic licence. Caesar flies to his hunting lodge 
pursued by ennui; in the faubourgs of the Capital, So- 
ciety grows savage, corrupted by silks and scents, soft- 
ened by sugar and hot water, made insolent by theatres 
and attractive slaves; and everywhere, including this 
province, new prophets spring up every day to sound the 
old barbaric note. 

I have tried everything. I have prohibited the sale of 
crystals and ouija-boards; I have slapped a heavy tax on 
playing cards; the courts are empowered to sentence al- 
chemists to hard labour in the mines; it is a statutory 
offence to turn tables or feel bumps. But nothing is really 
effective. How can I expect the masses to be sensible 
when, for instance, to my certain knowledge, the cap- 
tain of my own guard wears an amulet against the Evil 

AXJDEN: For the Time Being 59 

Eye, and the richest merchant in the city consults a 
medium over every important transaction? 

Legislation is helpless against the wild prayer of long- 
ing that rises, day in, day out, from all these households 
under my protection: "O God, put away justice and 
truth for we cannot understand them and do not want 
them. Eternity would bore us dreadfully. Leave Thy 
heavens and come down to our earth of waterclocks and 
hedges. Become our uncle. Look after Baby, amuse 
Grandfather, escort Madam to the Opera, help Willy 
with his home-work, introduce Muriel to a handsome 
naval officer. Be interesting and weak like us, and we 
will love you as we love ourselves." 

Reason is helpless, and now even the Poetic Compro- 
mise no longer works, all those lovely fairy tales in which 
Zeus, disguising himself as a swan or a bull or a shower 
of rain or what-have-you, lay with some beautiful woman 
and begot a hero. For the Public has grown too sophisti- 
cated. Under all the charming metaphors and symbols, 
it detects the stern command, "Be and act heroically"; 
behind the myth of divine origin, it senses the real hu- 
man excellence that is a reproach to its own baseness. 
So, with a bellow of rage, it kicks Poetry downstairs and 
sends for Prophecy. "Your sister has just insulted me. I 
asked for a God who should be as like me as possible. 
What use to me is a God whose divinity consists in do- 
ing difficult things that I cannot do or saying clever 
things that I cannot understand? The God I want and 
intend to get must be someone I can recognise immedi- 
ately without having to wait and see what he says or 
does. There must be nothing in the least extraordinary 
about him. Produce him at once, please. I'm sick of wait- 

Today, apparently, judging by the trio who came to 
see me this morning with an ecstatic grin on their schol- 
arly faces, the job has been done. "God has been born," 
they cried, "we have seen him ourselves. The World is 
saved. Nothing else matters." 


One needn't be much of a psychologist to realise that 
if this rumour is not stamped out now, in a few years it 
is capable of diseasing the whole Empire, and one 
doesn't have to be a prophet to predict the consequences 
if it should. 

Reason will be replaced by Revelation. Instead of Ra- 
tional Law, objective truths preceptible to any who will 
undergo the necessary intellectual discipline, and the 
same for all, Knowledge will degenerate into a riot of 
subjective visions feelings in the solar plexus induced 
by undernourishment, angelic images generated by 
fevers or drugs, dream warnings inspired by the sound of 
falling water. Whole cosmogonies will be created out of 
some forgotten personal resentment, complete epics writ- 
ten in private languages, the daubs of school children 
ranked above the greatest masterpieces. 

Idealism will be replaced by Materialism. Priapus will 
only have to move to a good address and call himself 
Eros to become the darling of middle-aged women. Life 
after death will be an eternal dinner party where all the 
guests are twenty years old. Diverted from its normal 
and wholesome outlet in patriotism and civic or family 
pride, the need of the materialistic Masses for some visi- 
ble Idol to worship will be driven into totally unsocial 
channels where no education can reach it. Divine hon- 
ours will be paid to silver teapots, shallow depressions 
in the earth, names on maps, domestic pets, ruined wind- 
mills, even in extreme cases, which will become increas- 
ingly common, to headaches, or malignant tumours, or 
four o'clock in the afternoon. 

Justice will be replaced by Pity as the cardinal human 
virtue, and all fear of retribution will vanish. Every 
corner-boy will congratulate himself: 'Tm such a sinner 
that God had to come down in person to save me. I 
must be a devil of a fellow/' Every crook will argue: "I 
like committing crimes. God likes forgiving them. Really 
the world is admirably arranged." And the ambition of 
every young cop will be to secure a death-bed repent- 

AXJDEN: For the Time Being 61 

ance. The New Aristocracy will consist exclusively of 
hermits, bums, and permanent invalids. The Rough Dia- 
mond, the Consumptive Whore, the bandit who is good 
to his mother, the epileptic girl who has a way with ani- 
mals will be the heroes and heroines of the New Tragedy 
when the general, the statesman, and the philosopher 
have become the butt of every farce and satire. 

Naturally this cannot be allowed to happen. Civilisa- 
tion must be saved even if this means sending for the 
military, as I suppose it does. How dreary. Why is it that 
in the end civilisation always has to call in these pro- 
fessional tidiers to whom it is all one whether it be 
Pythagoras or a homicidal lunatic that they are in- 
structed to exterminate. O dear. Why couldn't this 
wretched infant be born somewhere else? Why can't peo- 
ple be sensible? I don't want to be horrid. Why can't 
they see that the notion of a finite God is absurd? Be- 
cause it is, And suppose, just for the sake of argument, 
that it isn't, that this story is true, that this child is in 
some inexplicable manner both God and Man, that he 
grows up, lives, and dies, without committing a single 
sin? Would that make life any better? On the contrary it 
would make it far, far worse. For it could only mean 
this; that once having shown them how, God would ex- 
pect every man, whatever his fortune, to lead a sinless 
life in the flesh and on earth. Then indeed would the 
human race be plunged into madness and despair. And 
for me personally at this moment it would mean that 
God had given me the power to destroy Himself. I refuse 
to be taken in. He could not play such a horrible practi- 
cal joke. Why should He dislike me so? I've worked like 
a slave. Ask anyone you like. I read all official dispatches 
without skipping. I've taken elocution lessons. I've hardly 
ever taken bribes. How dare He allow me to decide? Tve 
tried to be good. I brush my teeth every night. I haven't 
had sex for a month. I object. I'm a liberal. I want every- 
one to be happy. I wish I had never been born. 



When the Sex War ended with the slaughter of the Grand- 


They found a bachelor's baby suffocating under them; 
Somebody called him George and that was the end of it: 

They hitched him up to the Army. 

George, you old debutante, 

How did you get in the Army? 

In the Retreat from Reason he deserted on his rocking- 


And lived on a fairy's kindness till he tired of kicking her; 
He smashed her spectacles and stole her check-book and 


Then cruised his way back to the Army. 
George, you old numero, 
How did you get in the Army? 

Before the Diet of Sugar he was using razor-blades 
And exited soon after with an allergy to maidenheads; 
He discovered a cure of his own, but no one would patent 

So he showed up again in the Army. 

George 9 you old flybynight, 

How did you get in the Army? 

When the Vice Crusades were over he was hired by some 


Prospecting for deodorants among the Eskimos; 
He was caught by a common cold and condemned to the 

whiskey mines, 

But schemozzled back to the Army. 
George, you old Emperor, 
How did you get in the Army? 

AUDEN: For the Time Being 63 

Since Peace was signed with Honour he's been minding his 


But, whoops, here comes His Idleness, buttoning his uni- 

Just in tidy time to massacre the Innocents; 
He's come home to roost in the Army. 
George, you old matador, 
Welcome back to the Army. 



On the Left are grinning dogs, peering down into a solitude 

too deep to fill with roses. 
On the Right are sensible sheep, gazing up at a pride 

where no dream can grow. 
Somewhere in these unending wastes of delirium is a lost 

child, speaking of Long Ago in the language of 


Tomorrow, perhaps, he will come to himself in Heaven. 
But here Grief turns her silence, neither in this direction, 

nor in that, nor for any reason. 
And her coldness now is on the earth forever. 



Mirror, let us through the glass 

No authority can pass. 


Echo, if the strong should come, 

Tell a white lie or be dumb. 


It was visitors* day at the vinegar works 
In Tenderloin Town when I tore my time; 
A sorrowf ul snapshot was my sinful wage: 
Was that why you left me, elusive bones? 
Come to our bracing desert 
"Where eternity is eventful, 
For the weather-glass 
Is set at Alas, 
The thermometer at "Resentful. 

The Kingdom o the Robbers lies 
Between Time and our memories; 


Fugitives from Space must cross 

The waste of the Anonymous. 


How should he figure my fear of the dark? 
The moment he can he'll remember me, 
The silly, he locked in the cellar for fun, 
And his dear little doggie shall die in his arms. 
Come to our old-world desert 
Where evert/one goes to pieces; 
You can pick up tears 
For souvenirs 
Or genuine diseases. 


Geysers and volcanoes give 

Sudden comical relief; 


And the vulture is a boon 

On a dull hot afternoon. 

AUDEN: For the Time Being 65 


All Father's nightingales knew their place, 
The gardens were loyal: look at them now. 
The roads are so careless, the rivers so rude, 
My studs have been stolen; I must speak to the sea. 
Come to our well-run desert 
Where anguish arrives by cable, 
And the deadly sins 
May be bought in tins 
With instructions on the label. 


Skulls recurring every mile 

Direct the thirsty to the Nile; 


And the jackal's eye at night 

Forces Error to keep right. 


In a land of lilies I lost my wits, 
Nude as a number all night I ran 
With a ghost for a guest along green canals; 
By the waters of waking I wept for the weeds. 
Come to our jolly desert 
Where even the dolls go whoring; 
Where cigarette-ends 
Become intimate friends. 
And it's always three in the morning. 


Safe in Egypt we shall sigh 
For lost insecurity; 
Only when her terrors come 
Does our flesh feel quite at home. 




Fly, Holy Family, from our immediate rage, 

That our future may be freed from our past; retrace 

The footsteps of law-giving 
Moses, back through the sterile waste, 

Down to the rotten kingdom of Egypt, the damp 
Tired delta where in her season of glory our 

Forefathers sighed in bondage; 
Abscond with the Child to the place 

That their children dare not revisit, to the time 
They do not care to remember; hide from our pride 

In our humiliation; 
Fly from our death with our new life. 



Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree, 
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes 
Some have got broken and carrying them up to the attic. 
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt, 
And the children got ready for school. There are enough 
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week 
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot, 
Stayed up so late, attempted quite unsuccessfully 
To love all of our relatives, and in general 
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again 
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and 


To do more than entertain it as an agreeable 
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away, 
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant, 

AUDEN: For the Time Being 67 

The promising child who cannot keep His word for long. 

The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory, 

And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware 

Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought 

Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now 

Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are, 

Back in the moderate Aristotelian city 

Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid's geometry 

And Newton's mechanics would account for our experience, 

And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it. 

It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets 

Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten 

The office was as depressing as this. To those who have 


The Child, however dimly, however incredulously, 
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all. 
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly 
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be 
Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment 
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious; 
Remembering the stable where for once in our lives 
Everything became a You and nothing was an It. 
And craving the sensation but ignoring the cause, 
We look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit 
Our self -reflection, and the obvious thing for that purpose 
Would be some great suffering. So, once we have met the 


We are tempted ever after to pray to the Father; 
"Lead us into temptation and evil for our sake." 
They will come, all right, don't worry; probably in a form 
That we do not expect, and certainly with a force 
More dreadful than we can imagine. In the meantime 
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair, 
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem 
From insignificance. The happy morning is over, 
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon: 
When the Spirit must practise his scales of rejoicing 
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure 


A silence that is neither for nor against her faith 

That God's Will will he done, that, in spite of her prayers, 

God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph. 



He is ihe Way. 

Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness; 

You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures. 

He is the Truth. 

Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety; 

You will come to a great city that has expected your return 
for years. 

He is the Life. 

Love Him in the World of the Flesh; 

And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy. 


A Play in Three Acts 


Copyright 1952 by Christopher Fry. 

Reprinted by permission of Oxford 

University Press, Inc. 




TEUSRET, Pharaoh's daughter 
SETI THE SECOND, the Pharaoh 
RAMASES, his son 


AARON, his brother 

MERIAM, his sister 

SHENDI, Miriams son 

Two overseers, a Minister (KEF) 

A guard and a servant 

The action o the play takes place in the summer of laoo 
B.C., alternating between Pharaoh's palace and Miriam's 


SCENE ONE: The terrace of the palace of Seti the Second, at 
Tanis. A morning in the summer of 1200 B.C. A flight of 
steps (unseen) leads down through a gate to open ground. 
The terrace looks out upon an incompleted pyramid. 

A scream. 

Enter from the palace ANATH BITHIAH, a woman of ffty, 
sister to the Pharaoh, and TEUSRET, a girl of fifteen, the 
PharaoKs daughter. 

ANATH: What was it, Teusret? 
TEUSRET: Did you hear it too? 

ANATH: Some man is dead. That scream was password to a 

Look there: up go the birds! 
TEUSRET: The heat on this terrace! 

You could bake on these stones, Aunt Anath. 
ANATH: Ask who it was. 

TEUSRET: They're working steadily at father's tomb. 

There's no sign of trouble. 
ANATH: We're too far off to see. 

We should know more if we could see their faces. 
TEUSRET (calling down the steps) : Guard! Come up here. 
ANATH: I should like to be certain. 

Oh, that pyramid! Everyday, watching it build, 

Will make an old woman of me early. 

It will cast a pretty shadow when it's done. 

Two hundred more men were taken on to-day, 

Did you know that, Teusret? Your father's in a hurry. 

Their sweat would be invaluable to the farmers in this 

What pains they take to house a family of dust. 


TEUSRET: It's a lovely tomb. 

ANATH: Yes, so it may be. 

But what shall we do with all that air to breathe 
And no more breath? I could as happily lie 
And wait for eternal life in something smaller. 
Enter A GUARD. 

TEUSRET: What was that scream we heard? 

GUARD: It's nothing, madam. 

ANATH: You are right. Nothing. If was something once 
But now it is only a scare of birds in the air 
And a pair of women with their nerves uncovered; 

TEUSRET: Who was it screamed? 

GUARD: One of the builders 

Missed his footing, madam; merely an Israelite. 
They're digging him into the sand. No, over to the left. 

TEUSRET: Oh yes, I see them now. That was all I wanted* 


So that's all right. 

ANATH: Can you remember your cousin? 

TEUSRET: Why, which cousin? 
ANATH: My foster son. You knew him 

When you were little. He lived with us in the palace. 
TEUSRET: The birds are back on the roof now. 
ANATH: Moses, Teusret. 

rEUSRET: What, Aunt? Yes, I think I remember. I re- 

A tall uncle. Was he only a cousin? 

He used to drum his helmet with a dagger 

While he sang us regimental marches to get us to sleep. 

It never did. Why? 
ANATH: No reason. I thought of him. 

Well, they've buried the man in the sand. We'd better 

Find our morning again and use what's left. 
TEUSRET: Why did you think of him? Why then partic- 

ANATH: Why not then? Sometimes he blows about my 

FRY: The Firstborn 73 

Like litter at the end of a public holiday. 

I have obstinate affections. Ask your father. 

He would tell you, if it wasn't impolitic 

To mention Moses, what a girl of fire 

I was, before I made these embers. 

He could tell you how I crossed your grandfather, 

And your grandfather was a dynasty in himself. 

Oh Teusret, what a day of legend that was! 

I held forbidden Israel in my arms 

And growled on my stubborn doorstep, till I had my 


TEUSRET: What do you mean? 
ANATH : Well, never mind. 


You've told me so far. 

ANATH: Keep it to yourself then. 

The summer of '24 had brilliant days 
And unprecedented storms. The striped linen 
You once cut up for a doll's dress was the dress 
Made for me that summer. It was the summer 
When my father, your grandfather, published the pro- 

TEUSRET: What pronouncement? 

ANATH: That all the boys of Jewdom 

Should be killed. Not out of spite, Teusret; necessity. 
Your grandfather ordered that Defence of the Realm be 


At the head of the document, in azure and silver. 
It made it easier for him. 

TEUSRET : Were they killed? 

ANATH: Yes, they all died of a signature. Or we thought 

Until the thirtieth of August. I went bathing on that 


I was a girl then, Teusret, and pkyed with the Nile 
As though with a sister. And afterwards as I waded 
To land again, pushing the river with my knees, 
The wash rocked a little ark out 


Into the daylight: and in the ark I found 

A tiny weeping Israel who had failed 

To be exterminated. When I stooped 

With my hair dripping on to his face 

He stopped in a screwed-up wail and looked. 

And when I found my hands and crowded him 

Into my breast, he buried like a burr. 

And when I spoke I laughed, and when I laughed 

I cried, he was so enchanting. I was ready 

To raise a hornet's nest to keep him; in fact 

I raised one. All the court flew up and buzzed. 

But what could they do? Not even my Pharaoh-father 

Could sting him out of my arms. So he grew up 

Into your tall cousin, Egyptian 

From beard to boots and, what was almost better, 

A soldier of genius. You don't remember 

How I held you on this terrace, to see him come home 

from war? 

It was ten years ago. Do you remember 
The shrieking music, and half Egypt shouting 
Conqueror! Peacemaker! 


JM*ATH: They have all tried to forget. 

They have blotted him out of the records, but not out 

Of my memory. 
rausRET: Why did they blot him out? 

I can never get at the truth of what came next. 

I sometimes overhear his name muttered 

In the corridors, between servants or the soldiers. 

But when they see me they stop their conversation. 

I have seen my father fidget at the name of a battle 

And change the subject. What is it all about? 

Moses was a prince of this house, my cousin. 

Now he is someone not to be spoken of. 

"The murder'* I've heard them say, and "Since the mur- 

What did he do? Did he go mad or something? 
ANATH: I might have known that I should say too much. 

FRY: The Firstborn 75 

TEUSRET: Aunt, you must tell me. 

ANATH: Well, no doubt I meant to. 

The day I held you here, he came as the conqueror 
Of Abyssinia. In all the windows and doors 
Women elbowed and cracked their voices; and men 
Hung on the gates and the trees; and children sang 
The usual songs, conducted by their teachers. 
As for me, nothing would stop me shaking. 
As for him, as for Moses, he was as tired 
As a dog, and stumbled when he climbed the steps to 

the palace. 

There was a brilliant reception. He was decorated 
By your grandfather. 

TEUSRET: Yes, but what happened to make him 

ANATH: All right, I'm coming to it, Teusret. The day 


For the country-side also to be able to see the hero, 
He went to inspect the city being built at Pithom. 
My book was closed from that day forward. 
He went round with an officer who unfortunately 
Was zealous but unintelligent Silly man: 
Silly, silly man. He found a labourer 
Idling or resting, and he thought, I suppose, 
"I'll show this prince that I'm worth my position" 
And beat the workman. A Jewish bricklayer. 
He beat him senseless. 

TEUSRET: And then? 

ANATH: What happened then 

I only know out of the sleepless nights 
Which I endured afterwards. In those nights 
I made myself a knowledge, and believe it. 
Moses turned turned to what was going on 
Turned himself and his world turtle. It was 
As though an inward knife scraped his eyes clean. 
The General of Egypt, the Lion and the Prince 
Recognized his mother's face in the battered body 
Of a bricklayer; saw it was not the face above 
His nursery, not my face after all. 


He knew his seed. And where my voice had hung till 

Now voices descending from ancestral Abraham 

Congregated on him. And he killed 

His Egyptian self in the self of that Egyptian 

And buried that self in the sand. 

Enter A GUARD. 
GUARD: The Pharaoh. 

Madam, the Pharaoh is here. 
ANATH: Can we look innocent? 

Enter SETI. Exit THE GUARD. 
TEUSRET: Good morning, father. 
SETI: Go indoors, my Teusret. 

ANATH: Is the day such vexation? Did you listen to me 

And sleep apart from your empire for one night? 

You didn't. Egypt has argued in the dark again 

While the night struck bitter bells on every clock. 

Look at you! Your eyes are deaf with listening 

To your wretched pillows, Seti. 
SETI: Where is Moses? 

ANATH: Seti! 
SETI: Where is Moses? You will know. 

In what country? Doing what? 
ANATH: Why Moses? 

SETI: I need him. 
ANATH: I've no reason to remember. 

I'm without him. 

SETI: But you know. 

ANATH: Why should I know? 

Why should I? When the sun goes down do I have to 

Where and how it grovels under the world? 

I thought he was a dust-storm we had shut outside. 

Even now I sometimes bite on the grit. 
SETI: Time has made it easier. The men are dead 

Who wanted his death-sentence. I must have him home. 

FRY: The Firstborn 77 

ANATH: Indeed you've not slept! 

SETI: I have found him necessary. 

Libya is armed along the length of her frontier, 

And the South's like sand, shifting and uncertain. 

I need Moses. We have discarded in him 

A general of excellent perception. 
ANATH: He's discarded, rightly or wrongly. We've let him 

SETI: Deeds lie down at last, and so did his. 

Out in the wilderness, after two days* flight, 

His deed lay down, knowing what it had lost him. 

Under the boredom of thorn-trees his deed cried out 

For Egypt and died. Ten years long he has lugged 

This dead thing after him. His loyalty needn't be ques- 

ANATH: We're coming to something strange when a nor- 
mal day 

Opens and lets in the past. He may remember 

Egypt. He's in Midian. 

SETI: In what part of Midian? 

ANATH: Wherever buckets are fetched up out of wells 

Or in his grave. 
SETI: We'll find him. If we have to comb 

Midian to its shadows we'll find him. 
ANATH: He's better where he is. 

SETI: He is essential to my plans. 
ANATH: I tell you 

He is better where he is. For you or me 

He's better where he is. 

We have seen different days without him 

And I have done my hair a different way. 

Leave him alone to bite his lips. 
SETI: He and I 

Were boys who went well together, in spite of a dif- 

In age. He was old for his years. We were excellent 


ANATH: Boys go home from school. After a time 

All boys become initials cut in wood. 
SETI: Prepare yourself to see him back. 

His eye is caught by something below and beyond 
the terrace. 

What's this, 
What is this crowd? 
ANATH: It's Ramases! No qualms 

For the dynasty, with a son as popular as he is. 
SETI: There's half the city round him. Where are his 


ANATH: There: a little behind. 
SETI: The boy's too careless 

Of himself. This mobbing is a fever and out of propor- 
You would think he had brought them a conquest; he 

might be a hero 
The way they cheer him. They're even climbing the 

To see him come through. What is the matter with 


ANATH: What do you mean? 
SETI: You're shaking. 

ANATH: Nonsense, Seti. 

SETI: I'm not altogether at rest in the way he's growing, 
Not altogether pleased with his free-and-easy good hu- 

His good graces for no-matter-whom. 
The young have keys that we have lost. They enter 
Life by doors which were better never unlocked. 
This easily-come-by popularity, for instance, 
Is a danger above all dangerous to princes. 
I don't like his drift or trust his politics. 
ANATH: What are his politics? 
SETI: Exactly so; 

What are they? There are no politics more dangerous 

Than politics that don't seem to exist. 

I can trust my enemy, trust him to be my enemy, 

FRY: The Firstborn 79 

But Ramases follows unpredictable instincts. 

They'll turn on him one of these days, like lion-cubs 

Who play so innocently and later on 

Find a mouth for blood. He must learn to abdicate 

His heart and let the needs of Egypt rule there. 
ANATH: He will learn. He is learning. 

SETI: Egypt should pray so. 

ANATH: I would hazard a guess that Egypt's women 

Have prayed for him often enough. Ra, raising 

An eyebrow stiff with the concentration of creation 

Probably says: That boy again? We'd better 

Make something of him early and have them satisfied. 

O, Ramases will be all right. 
SETI: I hope, 

I hope. 

Enter RAMASES, a boy of eighteen. 

RAMASES: Did you see the excitement? I think it's the 

Like the air, we're all quivering with heat. 

Do you find that, Aunt? Either you must sleep like the 

Or something violent must happen. 
ANATH: Look: your father. 

RAMASES: I didn't see you, father. I'm sorry, sir. 

Did I interrupt state matters? 
SETI: If they had been, 

We should have fetched you here. What morning have 

you had? 
RAMASES: Holiday books rolled up, military exercises 

Over, and no social engagements. I've been fowling 

Down at the marshes. 
ANATH: Any luck? 

RAMASES: Not much flesh 

But a paradise of feathers. I was out before daybreak. 
ANATH: It's a good marksman who hunts by batlight 


Waited for daylight. Until then the marsh was a torpor, 
I clucked and clapped as the sun rose 


And up shot so much whistle and whirr 

I could only hold my spear and laugh. 

All the indignant wings of the marshes 

Flocking to the banner of Tuesday 

To avoid the Prince of Egypt! 

Off they flapped into the mist 

Looking about for Monday 

The day they had lived in peace: and finding nothing 

Back they wheeled to Tuesday. 

I had recovered myself by then and killed 

One that had the breast of a chestnut. 

At last he could feel the uninterrupted darkness 

Of an addled egg. I watched his nerves flinching 

As they felt how dark that darkness was. 

I found myself trying to peer into his death. 

It seemed a long way down. The morning and it 

Were oddly separate, 

Though the bird lay in the sun: separate somehow 

Even from contemplation. 
ANATH: Excellent spirits 

To make a success of a holiday. 

RAMASES: Only for a moment. 

SETT: This afternoon I have business for you. (He turns to 

go in.) 

RAMASES : Very well. 

SETT: Was that thunder? 

ANATH: They're dumping new stone for the pyramid. 

RAMASES: Two men came tibrough the marshes before I 

Jews, but not our Jews: or one of them 

Was not; he seemed a man. of prosperity 

Although some miles of sun and dust were on him. 
SETT: Aliens? 
RAMASES: Yes; but one of them I felt 

I should have known. I stared but couldn't place him. 

He stood so strongly up out of some recollection 

And yet what was it? How could I have known him? 

I passed tiben again as I came home. They stood 

FRY: The Firstborn 81 

To watch the crowd. I looked across and smiled 

But got no smiles from them. They looked, and yet 

They seemed to look back in their minds 

Rather than out at me. And one, the tall one 
ANATH: Very tall? 
RAMASES: Yes, he was tall. It was he 

Who is somehow in my memory. 
ANATH: Seti 

SETI: Well? 

ANATH: Is it possible that someone hasn't waited to be 

Is it possible? 

SETI: It is not possible. 

ANATH: Your thoughts are leaning that way too. 

Sometimes the unaccountable stalks in. 
SETI: Which way were they travelling, Ramases? 
RAMASES: This way. If I had only thought of them sooner 

We could have seen them go by. Sir! 

They are standing here at the foot of the stairway. How 

Can they have been there? They're standing without 

Gazing up: not conversing, but looking up: 

Who let them through? Shall I speak to them? 
ANATH: He has stood all day under my brain's stairway. 

Seti, who is there? Which foremost, Ramases? 

The tall one? 

RAMASES: Yes. Who's in your mind? 

ANATH: The tall one. 

The tall one. 

RAMASES goes down the steps. 

So he is back; and small-talk 

Has to block a draught up ten years old. 

God help me. 

SETI: Why has he come? 

ANATH: You said he longed 

For Egypt 


SETI: I think so. 

ANATH: But what am I in Egypt? 

A dead king's daughter. 

Re-enter RAMASES, followed by MOSES and AARON. 
SETI: I am tempted to call this a visitation and not 

A visit. What words can I find to fit 

So ghostly a homecoming? 

Who is this man? 

SETI: Understand you are welcome. Whatever uncer- 

You have can go. We welcome you. Look who is here* 
ANATH: He has seen me. We have looked at one another. 
SETI: We'll absolve ourselves of the ten years. Who is 


MOSES: My brother. 

SETI: I had not heard you had a brother. 

ANATH: A brother, a sister and a mother. All the three. 
SETI: Our lives at their most coincidental bring the gods 

Very near. I told my sister we must have you back. 

And so we must, and so Egypt must; and it seems 

That we have. You are come promptly at the word, 


MOSES: This is not why I came. 

SETT: You would scarcely foresee it. 

MOSES: I am not who you think. I am a stranger. 
SETI: Not by a vein or a hair. The past is forgotten. 

You are a prince of Egypt. 
MOSES: The prince of Egypt 

Died the day he fled. 

SETI: What do you mean? 

MOSES: That prince of Egypt died. I am the Hebrew 

Smitten out of the shadow of that prince, 

Vomited out of his dry lips, the cry 

Whipped off the sanded tongue of that prince of Egypt. 
SETI: What has this long discomfort done for you, 

My friend? It has made you bitter. 

FRY: The Firstborn 83 

MOSES : Make no mistake; 

I have done very well for myself. I haven't come to 

Why was it you decided to ask me to come back? 
SETT. Isn't it time we laid the crippling ghost 

That haunts us? You evidently thought so too 

To come so far. 

MOSES : You've a better reason than that 

SETI: Why should you want reasons when you have come 

On your own initiative? Why are you here? 

I am asking you candidly. Why did you come? 
MOSES: My blood heard my blood weeping 

Far off like the swimming of fear under the sea, 

The sobbing at night below the garden. I heard 

My blood weeping. It is here it wept and weeps. 

It was from here I heard coming this drum of despair, 

The hidden bullfrog of my brothers* grief: 

Under your shoes, under your smile, and under 

The foundations of your tomb. From Egypt. 
ANATH: What was it, Seti, that lay down and died? 
SETI: Why are you here? 
MOSES: To be close to this 

That up to now has only made me uneasy, 

As though a threat of evil whispered beyond 

Control under the wind. I could be 

Uneasy and still eat in Midian. 

I could be Pharaoh in Midian, but in Egypt 

I knew I should be Moses. 
SETI : Still you haven't 

Answered my question. Come, what do you want? 
MOSES: First, that you should know what you are doing. 
SETI: Take care, Moses. 
ANATH: And secondly? 

MOSES : What can I hope 

From that until he has understood the first? 
SETI: What is this mood you have come in which is so 


To abuse a decent welcome? There is something ship- 

About you that will not do for peaceful places. 

Steady yourself if we're to understand one another. 

I am the Pharaoh, Moses, not the young uncle 

Of the Heliopolis classroom, nor your messroom 

Well, go on. 
MOSES: A man has more to be 

Than a Pharaoh. He must dare to outgrow the security 

Of partial blindness. I'm not speaking now 

To your crown; I'm speaking to your merciless mischief. 
SETI: You have coarsened during your exile. What you say 

Hasn't even the virtue of clarity. If you wish 

To consider my offer of reinstatement, go 

And consider. I can be patient. Egypt can do 

Her work on you like a generous woman, given 

Her time. (He glances at ANATH.) 

Midian will wash off in the Nile. 

Go on, go on, I shall not remember this morning. 
MOSES: I think you will. My brother has lived these days* 

In amongst Israel, while I was sleeping. 

He knows both the truth and the injury better than I 

He has had refuge, this last year, close to your border. 

He was hunted out for his friendship to flesh and blood, 

And so he has lain with his ear against the door 

Hearing pain but unable to come to it. 

He stands here with me now so that what shall be said 

Shall be truthfully said and what you shall hear 

Will have earned hearing because the teller lived it. 
AARON: Twelve hundred thousand Israelites are under 

Your dominion. Of these two hundred and twenty thou- 

Only, are men. The rest are in the proportion 

Of four hundred and fifty thousand women 

And five hundred and thirty thousand children. 

FRY: The Firstborn 85 

SETT: I have my census-takers. 

AARON: So perhaps 

Has Death got his; but I think he has not referred 

His undertakings to your dynastic understanding. 

Here I have his estimate: between April and July 

Sixty-one deaths suffered in old age 

But an old age of forced labour, their backs bent twice, 

Under the weight of years and under the mule-whip. 

Also thirty-eight deaths of healthy men 

Who made some show of reluctance or momentary 

MOSES: That was a good cure. They are now 

Patient for all eternity. 
AARON: Also the deaths 

Of seven pregnant women, forced to dig 

Until they had become their own gravediggers. 

Also the deaths of nineteen children, twelve 

Unofficial crucifixions . . . 
SETT: This is intolerable 

Singsong! Am I to compose the epitaphs 

For every individual grave of this trying summer? 

I have my figures. I do not need yours. 
MOSES: Twelve hundred thousand. These are the men 

I have come to find. They are the wound in my mind. 

They show me myself covered in blood: and you 

Are there, staring back at yourself from that mortal 

Mirror, twelve hundred thousand times yourself, 

Which, like a dog with its own reflection, 

You don't recognize. No recollection? 

Not of this child, elect in its private maze? 

Not of this boy rashly making manhood 

Out of a clumsy alteration? Is this some other 

Form of life than yours? What; is nothing like? 

The girls dandling to-morrow, the young men 

Trying to justify to-day, old men 

Sitting by monuments of memory 

All these licking their fingers of experience 


To turn the page. Nol I am mistaken. 
They are only pestilence-carriers and tomb makers. 
But the worst pestilence they carry is the cruelty 
Of Pharaoh. That is what I have come to show you. 

SETT: Very well; you have introduced yourself; 
I have understood you. Is it not a pity 
That you had taken up this attitude 
Before you were aware of mine? I can see 
How, knowing, as you must, your own capabilities, 
You would fill those listless hours of your exile 
With dreams of action. Action is what I have for you. 
But there's a whiff of anarchy about you. 
You cannot hope that I should like it. A generalship 
The confidence of Egypt these do not look well 
On an agitator. Something has to go. 
I have put men to a purpose who otherwise 
Would have had not the least meaning. 

MOSES: Aaron, 

What am I doing fitting one word against another 
To see them melt as soon as they touch this man? 
Not the least meaning, except the meaning 
Of the breath in your lungs, the mystery of existing 
At all. What have we approached or conceived 
When we have conquered and built a world? Even 
Though civilisation became perfect? What then? 
We have only put a crown on the skeleton. 
It is the individual man 
In his individual freedom who can mature 
With his warm spirit the unripe world. 
What would you make of man? If you diminish him 
To a count of labouring limbs, you also will dwindle 
And be an unmeaning body, decomposing 
Imperceptibly under heavy ornaments. 
They are your likeness, these men, even to nightmares. 
I have business with Egypt, one more victory for her, 
A better one than Ethiopia: 
That she should come to see her own shame 
And discover justice for my people. 

FRY: The Firstborn 87 

SETI: You have fermented in your Midian bottle. 

But lately I have learnt an obstinate patience. 

We should have done better to have met 

Out of the sun. We can do better than this 

And so we shall yet, later, at a cooler time. 

Where will you sleep? We will see you have food. 

Do you remember, I wonder, the palace nectarine? 
MOSES and AARON go towards the steps. 

I said, where will you lodge? 

MOSES: With my sister, Miriam. 

SETI (to ANATH) : Do you know where that is? 
ANATH: Perfectly. 

SETI (going in) : Very well. 

ANATH: Now he will not sleep again tonight. 
MOSES: I hope that none of us will sleep again 

Until we all can sleep. 
ANATH: And so once more 

We see each other. You have chosen a fine day. 

MOSES waits. ANATH says no more. He goes with 


ANATH: I taught him to walk, Ramases. I also taught him 

To speak and say his alphabet. I taught you your 

Alphabet also; and also Teusret hers. 

I have been a really useful woman. 

Does his sister live? 

ANATH : Why do you want to know? 

RAMASES: I wondered where it might be. 
ANATH : She has a tent 

By the brick-kiln. 
RAMASES: We used to ride that way 

And leave presents on a woman there. Was that 

The sister? 
ANATH: Yes; Miriam. His sister Miriam. 

Ramases, let what has happened work itself out. 

Don't finger it. Do you hear me? 
RAMASES: I liked that man. 


ANATH: So have others before you. Do not finger it. 

Your father is not always quite at his best. 
RAMASES: I know my father. 
ANATH: Maybe. 

RAMASES: I seem to love him. 

ANATH; You should. 

RAMASES : And yet I could like that man. 

ANATH: Well, like that man; but do not raise a hand 

To help that man; do not sing with that man 

Or let him make his nest in your brain. Like him, 

Ramases, forget him, and let us live in peace. 
RAMASES: I shall go and find him. 
ANATH: Ramases, come here. 

Do you want to make yourself look like a laughable 

Bounding after his heels? Stay where you are. 

I ask it of you. I ask you to put him from your mind. 

Do you hear? I ask you to forget him. 


ANATH: What would make it difficult? 

RAMASES : Can you forget him? 

ANATH: He has gone. 

RAMASES : And something of us, I think, went with him. 

ANATH: Well, you will let him go. I have asked you. 


I love you, you know that. But trust me a little. 

I shall be discreet. 
ANATH: Ramases! No, 

What should I be doing, turning his feet 

Towards my fears? (She goes to the parapet.) 
I guess at a reticent power 

Above the days of our life. 

Our most convinced actions are only questions, 

And the power will answer as it wishes. 

If I do not act, it will still answer. 

But it will not have been my question. 

FRY: The Firstborn 89 

TEUSRET: Aunt Anath 

ANATH: Do you remember, Teusret? 

A man fell from the pyramid only this morning. 


SCENE TWO: MIRIAM'S tent. MOSES (in the entrance). 

MOSES: Miriam! Miriam! 

MIRIAM: Is it my brother? Yes; 

You have his immovable look. Aaron told me 

To expect you, 

MOSES: Can you be Miriam? 

MIRIAM: A kind 

Of residue. Sit down, if you don't mind. 

I dislike answering questions. Ask me nothing. 

I am very well; I have nothing to offer you 

To drink. 

MOSES: I'm glad to be with you after so long, 
'MIRIAM: You will find it very tiresome after five or six 

I repeat myself unendurably, like the Creation. 

Your only hope is to deaden yourself to me 
. And it. 

AARON (in the entrance): Your name runs like fire, like 
an ostrich! 

You didn't wait to hear, but the sergeant at the gate 

Is full of it. They've started campaigns of gossip 

And altercation in the assembly-gardens 

As soon as this; before you've even been seen! 
MOSES: And what will this do for us? 
AARON: Surely it suggests 

They're taking sides? It was noticed a minister's wife 


Was wearing an M in small lilies; her daughter snatched 
them off 

And threw them among the pigeons. How can Seti 

Assure himself what size your faction is? 

Egypt loves and hates you inextricably. 
MOSES: Egypt is afraid. Love me? No; 

They're afraid to be without me. 
AARON: That will pass for love. 
MOSES: They love me from the bottom of their greed. 

Give me the bad news. What men have we lost? 
MIRIAM: So you're not only here on a visit to your sister. 
AARON: Here is a list. It's not complete. 
MIRIAM: I've had 

Enough of trouble. 
MOSES: Rahnor, Janeth, Pathrusim 

Is he lost? Pathrusim? The sand of Egypt 

Is abominably the richer. Hadoram, Seth, 

Havilah, Dodanim . . . 
MIRIAM: Why do you read 

Dead men's names? There are some of us still breath- 

Your sister, for example, is still alive, 

Figuratively speaking. I imagined 

You would have plenty to tell me. Have you not? 

Am I always to know nothing of you? 

MOSES: These names are what I am. 

MIRIAM: They are yesterday's life. I liked many of them 
very well; 

But we no longer have anything in common. 
AARON: Are we to forget them because we have lost 

MIRIAM: To wish 

To be with them comes too easily. 
MOSES: This tent 

Is stifling. 
MIRIAM: I keep it closed. I have no liking 

For what goes on outside. 

FRY: The Firstborn 91 

MOSES: When do they say 

The mountains last had rain? 
MIRIAM : Nine months ago. 

MOSES: It's time for parturition. 

Look: what you shut out is a withering city. 

City of Egypt. This land once I worshipped, 

And now I cannot be sure what I bring against her 

In my heart. This noon, like every other noon, 

Still groans with the laborious wheels which drew 

The Nile water. There is little difference 

Between ourselves and those blindfolded oxen. 

We also do the thing we cannot see, 

Hearing the creaking pivot and only knowing 

That we labour. 
MIRIAM: Why did you bring him? Take yourselves off! 

This is my tent, and it's not for restless hands. 

He's a dangermaker still. Only watch his hands! 
AARON: What has he said, Miriam? 
MIRIAM : I have a son 

And that is all I rest on. There's a man 

Who should have been my brother. A king's daughter 

Swallowed him and spat out this outlaw. IT1 

Not have any more in the family. 

AAJRON : What should make them? 

MIRIAM: You and he. I know. Two years ago 

I had it all: the surly men coming in here, 

One at a time by signal, hardly nodding 

Towards me, covering the table with their knife-cuts 

To show how revolution must come, and freedom, 

And idiocy; till a beetle striking the lamp 

Or the coal settling, would shiver through us all 

As though a dagger had sung into the pole. 

And Espah and Zoad are dead from it. And you 

In a night of loud hyenas went over the border. 

Not again. I'll keep my nights of sleep, and I'll keep 

My son. 
AARON: In this country of murder? 


MIRIAM: 111 keep my son 

In whatever country. 
MOSES: Happily? 

'\HRIAM: We have 

A way of living. We have the habit. Well? 

It becomes a kind of pleasantness. 
MOSES: You have gone 

With the dead after all, but you pretend not to see them. 

Miriam, we have to speak to them with our lives. 

Death was their question to us, and our lives 

Become their understanding or perplexity. 

And by living to answer them, we also answer 

Our own impermanence. But this rule of Egypt 

Denies us life, Miriam, and gives us nothing 

With which we can outspeak our graves. 
MIRIAM: I am angry; 

The pity is I am angry. I must pretend 

You have said nothing. 
AARON: But do you understand him? 

In fact, do I understand him? 
MIRIAM: In fact, do we need to? 

I've no doubt he is kind, but not our kind. Very well, 

I will say something. I'll say he's a sightseer; 

And we keep our experience. 
MOSES: When I was a child, 

Miriam, and you came like comfort to the huge 

Nursery of the Pharaohs, we'd go hand 

In hand along your stories, Hebrew stories 

Which like contraband you put quietly in 

To become my nature. What have you for me now? 
MIRIAM: How she disliked me then! But what a talent 

For condescension she had. I never saw you 

After you were a child except by waiting 

Among the crowd in the streets. There was no need 

To come from Midian to tell me what my life is; 

I have a bowing acquaintance with it. I knew it 

When I hid you to save you from the knives. 

FBY: The Firstborn 93 

Before I could talk it talked to me 

In most difficult words. 

MOSES: What words, Miriam? 

MIRIAM: Pogrom, for one. And the curses of children 

When I ran towards them expecting to play. 

We have a wildfowl quality of blood, 

Moses, temptation for sportsmen. 
MOSES: Go on. 

MIRIAM: With what 

If you please? Do you know the secret which will 

Our spoor? Our grandfather was stoned. I imagine 

Creation tried our blood, and brought it in guilty. 
MOSES: It was the verdict of Chaos. 
MIRIAM: The thick of Chaos 

Can still be smelt in the air, then. It was never 

Properly resolved. 
MOSES: And I believed 

I had strength! 

MIRIAM: Your quarrel is with what things are. 

MOSES: Above all, with what I am, the inconsiderable 

Life, born of such distances of suffering 

And experiences, such an orgasm of mankind, 

Such hewing of a foothold in the rockface 

Of darkness, such aeons of cause and purport, 

Jets and flares of a vision and the blaze 

Of undecipherable fury, ages 

Of moons rising into airs of sleep, 

Of suns relenting down into the hills 

Away from triumph, beyond defeat and yet 

My spirit, fruit of these life-throes of time, 

Paces the condemned cell, the human body, 

Incapable, weaponless, fettered with flesh, drinking 

The moisture of the walls. Is the spirit 

So masterly, that nature must obstruct it 

Or be consumed? I feel it. Oh, it points! 

I am there, beyond myself, if I could reach 

To where I am. Miriam, you have shown me too much. 


MIRIAM: One grows accustomed. 

AARON: You will find the approach 

And the means you want, I'm confident. Something 

Will soon open a way to action. 
RAMASES (in the tent-opening) ; Uncle. 

I knew you as that. When I have thought of you 

It has been as my uncle. You may not like it. 

You may not want to see me, even. 
MIRIAM: The palace! 

AARON: Well, why not? Another man has been royal 

And is here. 

MIRIAM: Has been, has been. 

RAMASES: Moses. 

MOSES: Welcome and unwelcome. 
RAMASES : I haven't come 

From my father. I used schoolboy's worship, like myrrh 

And cassia, with gums of memory, 

To perpetuate you: the immense and affable 

God in general's uniform, who came 

And went between wars, who filled the schoolroom; and I 

Could call him uncle. So when the memory 

Broke its wrappings, and stood speaking like a man 

On a noonday terrace, I decided to come nearer. 
MOSES: Come on, then, and send the, god to vanish finally 

Into the lie that he always was. 
RAMASES : You spoke 

To my father too suddenly. 
MOSES: Yes, we're precipitous, 

We gods. We threw off the world, vegetable 

And animal too, on the impulse of an imaginative 

Moment. But we lost interest. 
RAMASES : You mean 

I'm a boy to you still. 
MOSES: You came by your boyhood honestly. 

Mine I stole. I had no right to it. 

Do you turn him away, Moses? Why not talk to him? 

FRY: The Firstborn 95 

MOSES: What would we talk of, Aaron? What quiet sub- 

They tell me centuries of horror brood 

In this vivid kindgom of fertile mud. Do you think 

If we swung the rattle of conversation 

Those centuries would fly off like so many crows? 

They would wheel above us and come to feed again. 
AARON: But what do you think of? I sometimes call you, 
to myself, 

A gate without a key. You'll open when you will. 

Such a gate must lead somewhere, so I believe, 

Though perhaps that sounds fanciful. Where shall we 
find a better 

RAMASES : I have my father mapped 

So that I know which way to travel. Listen, 

Uncle he says he would have recalled you, which 

He needs you here. He'll be friendly if you let him. 

I kept a buckle of your uniform this one, the lion- 

Take it again, take our army and be our general. 

You'll become inseparable from Egypt's safety; 

Then he will listen. Then you can direct 

His goodwill past yourself to these Israelites. 
AARON: It's true. You have the buckle, and we're agreed, 

My dreams were less; not a third as felicitous. 
MOSES: Egypt and Israel both in me together! 

How would that be managed? I should wolf 

Myself to keep myself nourished. I could play 

With wars, oh God, very pleasantly. You know 

I prosper in a cloud of dust you're wise 

To offer me that. And Egypt would still be, 

In spite of my fathers, a sufficient cause. 
AARON: Yes, it would be sufficient. 
MOSES: Splendid, then. 

What armour shall I wear? What ancestral metal 


Above my heart? Rib, thighbone and skull: 
Bones from the mines of Egypt. I will clank 
To Egypt's victory in Israel's bones. 
Does this please you? Does it not? Admire 
How when preparing a campaign I become 
Oblivious to day and night, and in 
The action, obsessed. How will that do? I make 
My future, put glory into Egypt, enjoy myself 
Into your father's confidence yes, that, 
I know; and being there, perhaps I coax 
Little concessions for the Hebrew cause 
To justify me. Idiot, idiot! 
I should have lost them, Aaron, and be lost, 
More than when in Midian I sat 
Over my food and let them trudge in my bowels. 
AARON: I have faith in your judgment. Nevertheless, this 


Something to be thought of, a reality of a kind. 
MOSES: Like adultery. 

MIRIAM: Offer of a generalship? 

Of course I don't understand. But like adultery? 
To be a general? Do you mean us to think 
You would refuse 

MOSES: You both would like to see 

Your brother fat, but your brother has a fancy 
To be as lean as Israel. 
MIRIAM: Where do you see 

Israel now? 
MOSES: Where do I see God? 

Be certain, Israel is. I am here to be a stone 
In her sling, out of her gall. 

RAMASES: Will you promise to be patient? 

There will be difficulties to be got over; 
I have a father. But at some future time 
When I am Pharaoh 

MOSES: By then I may be free 

To let my bones talk of their disinterest 

FRY: The Firstborn 97 

In the world's affairs: and whether it is Hebrew 

Or Egyptian, man will cry for me no longer. 
MIRIAM: Listen! 
AARON : What is it? 

MIRIAM : Nothing, nothing I imagined 

Why should he be back at this time? What 

Could bring him now? Listen! 
MOSES : What do you hear? 

MIRIAM: It's the whistle he gives when he's reaching 

AARON: Her son. 

It's Shendi. 
MIRIAM: Something has happened. The negro lynx. 

Was in my sleep last night praying to become 

A man, but only dead birds came out of its mouth. 

Why is the palace here? What are you doing here 

In my home? He cannot even come home. 
RAMASES: Is this 

MIRIAM: Do you hear him again? No nearer, no nearer. 

He is being prevented. Can I get to him 

Without being seen? Stay where you are. No one 

Must see me, no one. 

She goes out. In a moment AARON follows her. 
RAMASES: You all think of me 

As an enemy. 
MOSES: We're not enemies so much 

As creatures of division. You and I, 

Eamases, like money in a purse, 

Ring together only to be spent 

For different reasons. 
RAMASES: Different? How am I 

To be spent, then? 
MOSES: How? Why, upon solids, 

On heritage, the one thing positive. 

Our roots are the element which gives us purpose 

And life. There will be summers to come which need 

The lotus. That will be for you. 


RAMASES: So let 

The lotus stink. Am I never to see you? 


It would be better, never. Forget me, Ramases. 

RAMASES: That anyway is impossible. I know 
I bear your mark, and how will you obliterate 
That? Do you forget the feel of the year 
When you were as I am? They count me as a man, 
Just. But the boy is still in my head and mouth. 
I feel him there. I speak him. I should burn 
Throne and lotus gladly if I could break 
Myself of boyhood, if burning would do it. But you 
Are clear and risen roundly over the hazes. 
You have the formula. I need it. 

MOSES: Clear? 

Evidence of that! Where in this drouthy 
Overwatered world can you find me clarity? 
What spirit made the hawk? a bird obedient 
To grace, a bright lash on the cheek of the wind 
And drawn and ringed with feathered earth and sun, 
An achievement of eternity's birdsmith. But did he 
Also bleak the glittering charcoal of the eyes 
And sharpen beak and claws on his hone of lust? 
What language is life? Not one I know. 
A quarrel in God's nature. But you, at least, 
Are pronounceable: heir of Egypt, heir of Egypt. 
That is yourself. 

RAMASES : You mean I'm of no value 

Except to be Egypt's ornament. 

MOSES: Of much 

Value, infinite. 

RAMASES : But we stay unfriendly? 

MOSES: Because I taste your boyhood and remember mine 
And like them both. 

RAMASES : But even so 

MOSES: You shall stay as you are. 

RAMASES: Exactly as I am, a friend of Moses. 

FRY: The Firstborn 99 

MOSES: They're coming with Shendi. Keep with me in 
the shadow. 

Enter MIRIAM and AARON, supporting SHENDI. 

MIRIAM: He has been so strong. Are you ill? How are you 

You can speak, surely you can speak? We don't know 


That's what is worst our own even in childhood 
They say so little. 

AARON: Lie here, Shendi. 

MIRIAM: Still 

And quiet. What shall I do for him? They're ourselves 
But quite dark to us. Things happen without warning. 

AARON: Give him this water. 

MIRIAM: A sip, and then you shall have more. 

My fingers are hot. I must drench my hands. Aaron > 
We have heen unhappy. What can we do with water? 
A sip again. I feel your heart in your forehead. 

SHENDI: They'll come. 

MIRIAM: Keep yourself quiet. 

SHENDI: Yes, they will come, 

They'll come for me, they'll find me! 

AARON: What have you done? 

MIRIAM: Done? 

SHENDI: What are you holding me for? Must I always 

Be held? It was the sun! Don't you know that? 
They make madmen in the sun. Thousands of madmen 
Have been made in the sun. They say nothing, nothing at 


But suddenly they're running no, not they, 
It's only their bodies that are running: the madmen 
Are still standing in the sun, watching their bodies 
Run away. Can they kill me for that? Or what, or what? 
It was the strike that made it happen! 

AARON : What have you said? 

What strike? 

MIRIAM: He's ill! 


SHENDI: No, it was the sun; not the strike, 

The sun. The noise of the strike, the whips. 
AARON: The strike? 

What was it? What has happened? 
SHENDI: The spermy bastards! 

They make us hit the earth like spit. 
MIRIAM: What are you saying? 

Don't ask him any more! 
AARON: I'll make him tell me. What strike? 

What has happened? 
SHENDI: I don't know what has happened. 

The brickmakers began it. A youngster was with me, 

Twelve years old, and he left me to watch the trouble. 

I saw them take him away, they dragged him off 

To the captain at the gate, because he was watching. 

It has nothing to do with it. It's the sun. Have you 

The order? They'll not give us straw to make the 

We must gather the straw ourselves; but the tale of 

Must be more, more! What does it matter? Who says 

It matters? They're coming for me. 
MIRIAM: It cannot happen, 

Shendi, it cannot. 
MOSES: Cannot happen, cannot be. 

Cannot. Earth, life, ourselves are impossibility; 

Impossible even as lie or legend. What is this Pharaoh 

Who answers me with this? Does he hope 

To make himself exist? Tell him it isn't possible. 

Existence is beyond conception. 
SHENDI: Who's that? 

My uncle, is it? The great fellow that was. 

The man who thought he was Egypt. Have you come 

To try again, murderer? Look at your crop of relations 

And how they do in the land you dunged for us. 

Never mind. You did very well. Oh, what will happen? 

FRY: The Firstborn 101 

Do you hear that? They're whipping the side of the 


You know I can't stand up, they've come for me, 
You know it was the sun uncle, uncle! 
MIRIAM: It was neighbours talking, it was only the neigh- 


It was neighbours talking. Wasn't it, wasn't it? 

No, no! 

IST OVERSEER: Nice family. Here's the man we want. 
2ND OVERSEER: Get up, 

Little rat. So you'd strike? Well teach you striking. 
Striking's our specialty. Eh? Not bad! We'll strike him! 
MIRIAM: He's sick can't you see? 
IST OVERSEER: That's enough of that. 

RAMASES : What is this? 

Weren't you told I had sent for him? 
2ND OVERSEER: My crimes! 

RAMASES: Well, weren't you told? 

IST OVERSEER: No, sir; no, your holiness; not told. 

I beg pardon, sir. I didn't see you, my lord, didn't see 


RAMASES: I tell you now. I sent for him. Go away. 
IST OVERSEER: Yes, lord. 
2ND OVERSEER: Yes, almighty. 

They back away out of sight. 
MIRIAM: You're here, Shendi, you're here. The prince has 

kept you. 
He spoke for you. Forgive me, I'm more afraid than 


Forgive me. Relief is very like an illness. 
SHENDI: No one warned What are you doing with me? 
Is it a trick? What did I say before they came? 
My lord, I was ill. I don't know what is happening. 
RAMASES: Nothing is happening. You can rest. 
AARON: For us 

Much is happening. I begin to have hope. 


Eh, Moses? This is the boy who will be our man, 
The palace key. In the belly of our misfortune 
We foid our hope. 

MOSES: We're not ready to hope 

Or to despair; not ready to doubt or to believe. 
We're equipped to do no more than confront ourselves. 
And if we were equipped for more, hoping 
Or despairing, I wouldn't use him. My need is some- 

Different: I need to know how good 
Can be strong enough to break out of the possessing 
Arms of evil: good, rectitude, 

The popular song, whistled by the world in the streets; 
And evil whistles the same air back again, 
Gigantic, mastering evil! And what we accept 
As good, breaks it less than the incision of wheat 
Breaks the ground. Where shall I look for triumph? 
Somewhere, not beyond our scope, is a power 
Participating, but unharnessed, waiting 
To be led towards us. Good has a singular strength 
Not known to evil; and I, an ambitious heart 
Needing interpretation. But not through this boy, 
Never through this boy. I will not use him! 


SCENE THREE: A room in the Palace, giving on to the ter- 
race of Scene One, ANATH is standing on the terrace. TEUS- 
RET'S voice is heard calling "Ramases! Ramases! 9 ' It draws 
nearer. ANATH comes into the room and listens for TEUSRET'S 
voice which now comes from farther away. She turns to go 
back to the terrace. Enter RAMASES. 

ANATH: Have you seen him? 


FRY: The Firstborn 103 

ANATH : Have you seen your father ? 

RAMASES: He made me a present of my future, with the 
royal seal 

Attached. Did you know? 
ANATH: I have to wish you happiness. 

Dear, be happy. There's nothing better to be looked for. 

Happiness is sometimes hard to recognize. 

It seems so to keep company with the unlikely. 

Teusret is looking for you. 
BAMASES: Where is she? 

ANATH: Everywhere. 

Put your hand in one place, she is already 

Beating her wings in another. 
RAMASES: Listen look 

What is it, this that has captured me? This "now," 

This exact truth of time certainly truth 

The moment we're now crossing. Can this truth 

Vanish? Look, your shadow thrown over the chair, 

That dog's jerking bark, the distance of whistling, 

A gate clanging-to, the water thrown into the yard, 

Your fingers travelling your bracelet, my voice listen, 

My voice your breathing 

TEUSRET is heard calling RAMASES. 

And Teusret running through the empty rooms. 

It is true for us now, but not till now, and never 

To be again. I want it for myself. 

This is my life. 


It has gone. 
TEUSRET: I've found you at last. 

Where have you been hidden? Where were you? 
RAMASES : With father. 

TEUSRET: For an hour! 

No one could tell me. The rooms were all deserted. 

Just as it happens in my sleep sometimes; but then 

The door on the other side of the room is always 

Closing behind you,, and the room is empty I never 

Come to vcw 


RAMASES: But, awake, it's different. You find me. 

TEUSRET: Why did he talk for so long? 

RAMASES: I'm to be married 

He says. 
TEUSRET: I had a riddle to ask you. Fareti 

Taught it to me. 
RAMASES : What is it? 

TEUSRET: Ramases, 

When will you be married? 
RAMASES: Soon, he says. 

TEUSRET: Why? Why? You can't! What does he mean? 

Then if you did Why have you said so? Oh, 

Why did you say it? 
RAMASES: Teusret 

TEUSRET : Who is it? 

RAMASES: The Syrian. 

Her name is Phipa. 
TEUSRET: Do you think that's pretty? 

Phipa, Phipa, PhipaF The noise a flute makes 

When the mouth's too full of saliva. You won't do it. 
RAMASES: WTiat can I say? 
ANATH: Teusret, we all, you will find, 

Belong to Egypt: our lives go on the loom 

And our land weaves. And the gods know we need 

Some such alliance. If the dynasty is safe 

We can at least be partly ourselves. He will need 

Both of us still. 
TEUSRET: He won't. He will be changed. 

The days will be different and I shall be the same. 

How shall I be happy then? 
Enter SETI. 

Will you be? 

Are you glad? 
SETI: Can you imagine, Teusret, 

The frantic compulsion which first fetched man forming 

And breathing out of the earth's dust? Such 

A compulsion of beauty has this Phipa of Syria, 

With the addition of wit and a good head for business. 

FRY: The Firstborn 105 

She's immensely rich. Homegoing sailors, 

When there are no stars, steer perfectly for Syria 

Merely by thinking of her. So they say. 

A figure of her, hung under the bows 

And kissing the wake, ensures a harvest of fish. 
TEUSRET: What a tale! 

SETI: Well, yes, but she has beauty. 

TEUSRET: Flowers for Ramases 

Then! We must make it an -occasion. I'll fetch my lute 

And celebrate. Garlands! Ill make you into 

A nice little afternoon god. Don't go away. 
RAMASES: Here, Teusret 
TEUSRET: You have earned a ceremony. 

Would you rather have me In tears? This isn't silliness 

But a proper f ormality. I need to do it. 

Wait here, all of you. 


ANATH: Let her do what she must. 

RAMASES (sings) : "If under my window 

The dark will not lose me 

No one will see me a maiden^again/' Father, 

I have something to ask you. It has to do with Moses. 
SETI: He needn't trouble you. 
RAMASES: Nor any of us. But haven't you 

Overlooked his nephew? 
SETT: This is nothing to you. 

Nothing to you at all. 
RAMASES : Nothing at all. 

Moses has a sister and a nephew. 

The nephew's a labourer. Might there not here be a 

By which you could come at Moses? 
SETI: Statesmanship, 

My son, is the gods' gift to restrain their own 

Infidelities to man. As for Moses, 

I'll comprehend him when he's comprehensible. 
RAMASES: Such as a commission for this nephew; or a 
place in the palace. 


Or whatever you consider is best. What would you 

What do you say? Can you talk of honours 

To a man whose family is unhonoured? I don't know, 

But you will know. 
SETT: Who told you to speak of him? 

What do you know of this name that you're bandying? 

You have stared enough at that pyramid. Is this 

Your influence? 
ANATH: Am I a planet, to be 

So influential? No, Seti; it is not. 

I would rather infect him with something less dubious 

Than the blood of Moses. 

Enter TEUSRET with a lute and flowers. 
TEUSRET: Look, I have them. I got them 

Out of my room. They were round my bronze Isis. 

Shall I have offended her? 

SETT: Do you know this nephew? 

ANATH: I've seen him. 

SETT: How did he promise? 

ANATH: He promised to be male, 

As though he might have the ability for a beard 

I thought. 
TEUSRET: Are you all ready for the ceremony? 

Ramases, you must be in a chair; this chair. 
RAMASES: Can it be tried? 
SETT: What is it now? 

RAMASES: To mark 

My coming of age, May I commission the nephew? 
SETT: That is still to be known. I must have precise 

Information of him. Now forget the question. 

The window on the east side of your room 

Is the window that looks toward Syria. 
TEUSRET: Why must you go 

Before you see Ramases in flowers? And when 

Have you ever heard me play on my lute? 
Exit SETT 

FRY: The Firstborn 107 

Has no one 

Told him he has a daughter? 
ANATH: The flowers were schooled 

With salamanders, to be so enduring 

In this furnace. 

RAMASES: Will he really do it? 

ANATH: The land 

Is rocking, remember. Hell take hold even of grass. 
TEUSRET: Let me begin. Neither of you has any sense 

Of occasion. These on your shoulders. What are flowers? 

What is the bridge to be crossed, I wonder, 

From a petal to being a wing or a hand? These 

For your brows. Does the scent of them sicken you? 

My pollen fingers. 

RAMASES: They're shattering already. 

TEUSRET: Some of them are too full. 
RAMASES: You've brought me the garden. 

Here's an earwig on my hand. 
TEUSRET: Tread on it. Now 

You're ripe to receive a god. Isn't he, Aunt? 

Does he look noble? My brother in bloom. 
RAMASES (treading on the earwig) : Out goes he. Let's get 

your singing over. 

TEUSRET (staring) : I have to remember you. Sing with me. 

Sing? With the crack in my voice? Not songs for 

Only songs in the minor, where a false note 

Can be taken to be excessive sensibility. 
TEUSRET: Nothing, nothing will go on in the old way. 

I wonder, can I remember which is the key? (She 

touches the lute) 

RAMASES: Did you know my father had ordered the Isra- 

To gather their own straw? 
ANATH: Yes, I knew. 

RAMASES: Why did he? 

ANATH: A little show of invulnerability. 


RAMASES: Is Moses safe here? 

TEUSRET: I wish there were echoes in this room, 

A choir of them, to be company for my voice. 
You will have to help me when I lose myself. 
( Sings) Why should there be two 

Where one will do, 
Step over this shadow and tell me 
And my heart will make a ring 

Sighing in a circle 

And my hands will beckon and bring 
The maiden fortune who befell me 

CTfortune, fortune. 
Enter SETT. 

You see, father, doesn't he look married already? 
( Sings) Why do we breath and wait 

So separate? 

The whirl in the shell and the sand 
Is time going home to time 

Kissing, to a darkness. 
So shall we go, so shall we seem 
In the gardens, hand in hand. 
CTfortune, fortune. 

So changed agairist the sun 

She is interrupted by MOSES, who enters bearing in 
his arms a dead Israelite boy. 

ANA.TH: What are we to have now? 

RAMASES: The wrong of a right. 

SETti What is this? Isn't it enough that you broke 

Into Egypt unasked but you must 
MOSES : This is your property. 

O little value. Shall I bury it in your garden? 

You need have no anxiety. It will not grow. 
ANATH: Oh, in the name of the.gods 
SETT: Is your reason gone? 

MOSES (laying the body at SETT'S -feet) : Look: worthless, 

FRY: The Firstborn 109 

The music needn't stop. 

You killed him. 
SETI: As I thought; you've let your brain 

Suffer in this heat. I saw, in the'first few words 

You spoke this morning, it would end in this. 
TEUSRET: Ramases! 
SETI: You frighten children, you see. 

It's too ambitious. 
TEUSRET: That boy! 

RAMASES: That isn't death 

Lying on the ground, 
TEUSRET: It is! It is! It is! 

SETT: Well? Tell me: is it an act of sanity 

To carry this child here? I'm sorry to see it. 

Take him and have him buried. You know it wasn't 

Done by me. 
MOSES: It was done of you. You'll not 

Escape from yourself through the narrows between By 
and Of. 

Your captain killed him on the metal of your gates, as 

A score of others. If it wasn't done of you 

Fetch the captain, condemn him to death, and watch 

How he'll stare. 

SETI: I'll see the man. It's understood. 

MOSES: Who understands? And what is understood? 

If you move your foot only a little forward 

Your toe will be against your power. Is this 

How you imagined your strength to be ungrowing, 

Unbreathing, a child, and dead? Out of him 

Comes your army, your fleet, the cliff of gold 

You move on, pride, place, adulation 

And name out of this contemptible chrysalis 

Not this, not even this, but this destroyed, 

This refused to itself. Fetch in your captain, 

Fetch in your thousand captains, and condemn them 

For the murder of your power. 


SETI: What would I give 

To see you for a moment with your old grasp 
And intelligence. Nature, you may remember, 
Is lavish, and in return for being understood, 
Not hoarded, gives us civilisation. 
Would you have the earth never see purple 
Because the murex dies? Blame, dear Moses, 
The gods for their creative plan which is 
Not to count the cost but enormously 
To bring about. 

MOSES: And so they bring about 

The enormity of Egypt. Is that the full 
Ambition of your gods? Egypt is only 
One golden eruption of time, one flying spark 
Attempting the ultimate fire. But who can say 
What secrets my race has, what unworked seams 
Of consciousness in mind and soul? Deny 
Life to itself and life will harness and ride you 
To its purpose. My people shall become themselves, 
By reason of their own god who speaks within them. 
What I ask is that I may lead them peaceably 
Into the wilderness for a space, to find 
Their god and so become living men at last. 

SETI: More favours, something new. What god is this? 

MOSES: The inimitable patience who doesn't yet 
Strike you down. 

SETI: He and I have something in common 

If he has patience. Shall I plough your madness 
And sow what I can of perception, or is the ground 
Too arid with your envy? My trust is Egypt 
And the maturity of the world. Where should I look 
For my worth, if I plunged my hand into the body 
Of the kingdom, and with a pale flower smell of hu- 

Released each bone and blessed each nerve and drop 
Of blood and left them to the elements? 
Or, gathering them in again when each by the wonder 
Of its individual god had learnt a new 

FRY: The Firstborn 111 

Desire of life, put them with their untutored 

Ambitions back to the corporate achievement, 

To watch their incoherence? Where then 

Is the painfully acquired stature and beauty 

Of mankind? 
MOSES: Where is it now? Your stature and beauty 

Is an untarred fleet which the waves rot while it rides 

You know well enough the dark places of the fish 

Under your palace floor: invasion is probable, 

Unrest is in and out of doors, your southern half 

Splits from the north, the lords at your table 

Are looking down at their hands. And flowing through 

Is the misery of my blood. Let that be clean 

First, and then the flesh may heal. 
SETT: Your god 

Has already taken your senses into his bosom; 

No doubt hell fetch your race to join them. But I 

Can't laugh. The public ear goes too easily 

To bed with lies. I have nursed you enough. 

Now dungeons can nurse you. Your god can find you 

Behind the walls and return your reason when he will. 
ANATH: Setil Are you sure? Will the surly half 

Of Egypt believe he was mad? 
SETT: Do you still play 

At being his mother? 
ANATH: Do you think I do? 

If you could see what my heart does, you could watch 

Destroying him. 
MOSES : If you destroy me, Seti, 

Destruction will end with you. 
RAMASES: There could have been 

Some other way than this. Is only Israel 

^rasent to you, as once it was only Egypt? 

Are you still Moses? Or who? Who are you? 
ANATH: Does he know? 


SETI: A man without laws. 

MOSES : What are the laws, 

Other than those laws, stupendous and balancing, 
Which made the hurl of smiting, infamous fires 
Wheel in perfection, perpetually, 
In great unaltering constellations: 
The devotion in time and place and appearance, 
Memory of the first unrolling of light: 
At the centre of which are we, uncentred man, 
Pointing in distraction at nothing but our existence. 
What are the laws? Tell me, you taker of lives! 
I am here by fury and the heart. Is that not 
A law? I am here to appease the unconsummated 
Resourceless dead, to join life to the living. 
Is that not underwritten by nature? Is that 
Not a law? Do not ask me why I do it! 
I live. I do this thing. I was born this action. 
Who can say for whom, for what ultimate region 
Of life? A deed is what it becomes. And yet 
What are the laws? Despite you, through you, upon 

I am compelled. 

A distant long cracking sound of thunder. MOSES 
jerks back his head to listen. 

Are we overheard? Behind 
The door that shuts us into life, there is 
An ear. 

ANATH: The mountains are breaking the drought at last! 

MOSES: It is not as we suppose! We are the fools 
Of sense and sight. What shall I believe? 
What league have we, the human, with the greater 
Than human? Nothing is as we suppose! 
The stream of Israel's cause has surely turned 
The wheel that contains us. Now, if only to make 
Death excel, life shall live. Am I given the power 
To do what I am? 

ANATH: Do what you are! Be unborn, 

Or a name spoken savagely before I lived. 

FRY: The Firstborn 113 

The power to do what you are is self-destruction. 
Ask it, ask it then, demand it! Crave it! 
Dispossess time of your white face. Be unborn, 
Unexisting, even though in going 
You take the world with you! 
MOSES: Am I given the power? 

What says the infinite eavesdropper? 

From horizon to horizon the sky is beaten into 


Curtain to Act One 


SCENE ONE: MIRIAM'S tent, the evening of the same day. 


MOSES: Has something come between us, or into what 
Back room of your mind have you gone? You watch 

each word 

As it comes out of my mouth, but I cannot see 
What you do with it after you have watched. 
You've something to say. 

AARON: I have nothing. 

MOSES: Must we bring 

Lights to each other? 

AARON : Why do you have to say this? 

MOSES: The present is always falling behind me. I seem 
To do what was done long ago, and yet I still 
Must grope and pummel to bring it into being. 
It's the switch of time on our flanks, to make us 
Pull the heavy moment. Look: I shall divide them 
Into groups a hundred or a hundred and fifty strong, 


Each with a man to lead them, one they can trust, 

Such as this man you mention, Morshad 

And the man I spoke with this evening. Put them down. 

AARON: Morshad and Zedeth. Yes, I have them, 

MOSES: And then 

This morning's rioting, the man who started that, 
Whatever his name is. Will they listen to him again? 

AARON goes to the tent-opening and looks out. 
He made his move too early, some few days 
Too soon. 

AARON: I thought I felt the earth quiver. 

MOSES: What is he called? 

AARON: The earth has moved. It stirred 

Like an animal. Moses! 

MOSES: The man has a name. Put him down. 

AARON: Something unnatural has come awake 
Which should have slept until time was finished. 
I haven't made this out of fear. Or what 
Is fear? Is it this uncoiling, unexampled! 
Listen! Did you hear a roar? A building 
Has collapsed. The dust is like a cloud, higher 
Than the city. Will you see? 

MOSES: We have something more to do 

Than to listen to falling cities. The dust will settle 
While we Hebrews die. Come on; give me the names. 

AARON: It's you, yourself! You see, it's yourself! I knew 
It wasn't I! And this is why I couldn't 
Answer you. You have gone under yourself, 
Under yourself or wherever it is as though 
Your reasonable plans and normal behaviour 
Were a deception covering something 
Utterly different. Were you waiting for this 
This, outside this obsessed appalling sunset? 
You see, I'm to pieces. Why does this mean nothing to 

Why won't you come and see it? 

MOSES: The names, the names. 

MIRIAM stands in the opening, with a pitcher. 

FRY: The Firstborn 115 

MIKIAM: All the water is blood. 

AARON: Miriam! What is happening to the city? 

MIRIAM: There's no water, no water. Nothing but blood. 
AARON: Then my fear has foundation. The sun has set 

On truth altogether. The evening's a perjury! 

Let none of us be duped by it. 
MIRIAM : Did you really 

Believe the world? So did we all. The water 

Is blood. The river floods it over the fields. 

The wells stink of it. 

AARON: What are you saying? 

MIRIAM: Go out then 

And see it yourself. The men who were thirsty 

To drink what came, are lying at the well-heads 


MOSES : What men? Ours? 

MIRIAM: Egyptians. 

MOSES: Miriam, 

What have you there? 
MIRIAM: I filled my pitcher. We all 

Filled our pitchers, everyone, in spite of 

Do you think we believed it could happen to us? To 

Perhaps, something might happen; to the others but not 

To ourselves. 

MOSES (bringing his hand out of the pitcher). Not to our- 
selves. To the others. 
MIRIAM: Your hand 

Has water on it! It is water! 
MOSES : From which well 

Was this drawn? 
MIRIAM: Our own. Are we likely to use the Egyptians'? 

But I saw it, we all saw it. 
MOSES: The sun this last hour 

Has been that colour. Doesn't it at evening 

Fall directly on our well? 
MIRIAM: The sun? Are we 


Talking about the sun? Tell me I'm lying 

And look at my feet. We slopped in blood flooding 

From the Nile. I saw the Egyptians who drank it 

MOSES: The Nile. 

The Egyptians! But this water came from our well 
Not theirs. Was I waiting, Aaron? I was waiting 
Without expectation. But surely, I already knew? 
And you did you guess, as well, that we are such a 


Of the whole, more than time made clear to us? 
Such projects of the unending, here projected 
Into passing actions? We with our five bare fingers 
Have caused the strings of God to sound. 
Creation's mutehead is dissolving, Aaron. 
Our lives are being lived into our lives, 
We are known! 

MIRIAM: Do you think it was you who made the Egyptians 
Vomit? We may as well all be mad. The world 
Has a disease. Let me away from it, and from you, 
And away from myself. Where is Shendi? 

AARON: What's this? 

Isn't there confusion enough? Confusion I call it! 
A contradiction of what we have always known 
To be conclusive: an ugly and impossible 
Mistake in nature. And you, you of all men 
Accept it, identify yourself with it. It must be 
Denied. What has become of you since yesterday? 
Is it not possible still to be plain men 
Dealing with a plain situation? Must we see 
Visions? You were an unchallengeable leader once. 
That is the man I follow. A plain soldier. 

MIRIAM: Where can Shendi be? 

MOSES: The plainest soldier is sworn to the service of rid- 

Our strategy is written on strange eternal paper. 
We may decide to advance this way or that way 
But we are lifted forward by a wind 

FRY: The Firstborn 117 

And when it drops we see no more of the world. 

Shall we live in mystery and yet 

Conduct ourselves as though everything were known? 

If, in battle upon the sea, we fought 

As though on land, we should be more embroiled 

With water than the enemy. Are we on sea 

Or land, would you say? 
AARON: Sea? Land? For pity's sake 

Sfey with reality. 
MOSES: If I can penetrate 

MIRIAM: What will you do for us? Not as much 

As sleep will do, if there is any way 

We can come at sleep. Do you think that we 

Can sink fear in that water in the pitcher? 

Why hasn't Shendi come home yet? It's past his time. 

He should have stayed here the rest of the day. 

Will you let me out of this intolerable night? 

Are we going to stand here for ever? 
SHENDI (in the tent-opening) : Mother! 

MIRIAM: Shendi, 

Has nothing happened to you? Let me see you and be 

Reassured. Were you harmed by what I saw? 
SHENDI: What have you seen? Nothing happened? Every- 

We've stepped across to a new life. Where were we liv- 

It was the appearance, of course, the appearance of hell. 

Nothing like it at all, except in our minds, our poor 

Minds. I was going to make you try to guess, 

But such an idea could never come at a guess. 

Never; it couldn't. They've made me an officer! 
MIRIAM: I don't understand what you mean. 
SHENDI: Your son! You see? 

They've made him an officer. Like an Egyptian officer. 

Like? I am one. We didn't know, that was all, 

The world is perfectly fair, something to laugh at. 


The ridiculous difference between me this morning 

And now! They found I was better with head tha 

MIRIAM: Shendi, did you come by way of the wells? Di< 

you see them? 

SHENDI: I expect so. They say they're diseased. Ca] 
you imagine 

How I felt when they took me by the arm and led me 

Apart from the other men? I almost fought them, 

I knew I was going to be beaten 
MIRIAM: Shendi, stop! 

What are you saying? 
SHENDI: Hell is done, done, 

Done with, over! 
MOSES: For you. 

MIRIAM: They would never do it. 

But then to-night everything is to be believed. 

Nothing has any truth and everything is true. 
AARON: I believe it. Perhaps you will think I'm gullible 

But here is something recognizable and encouraging. 

An evocation, if you like, of better things; 

And, considering the Pharaoh, as a gesture a prodigy. 

You've already achieved something, Moses, 

And in a way 
SHENDI: He has achieved? Achieved what? 

You didn't hear what they said to me. This has nothing 

To do with my uncle. You have my uncle on the brain 
AARON: I can see what you mean. 
JSHENDI: I report at the officers' quarter* 

In half an hour. I'll take some of my things 

Along with me now. Has the world always been knowr 

To spring such wonders, do you think? You're to live 
with me, 

Mother, do you understand? Follow on later 

And ask for the new officer. At the officers' quarters. 

Have you something you can give me to wrap this linei 

FRY: The Firstborn 119 

The Libyans have broken across the border and massa- 

Two companies of the border regiment. 
AARON: What? 

A massacre? When was this? 
SHENDI: I don't know when. 

Where have you put my razor? Four hundred Egyptians 

Killed, they say. They talked as though 

I were already one of themselves. They say 

There's also a rumour of revolution in the south 
AARON: Moses, do you hear? 
SHENDI: Where is my razor? 

MIRIAM: There. 

Did you see the wells? I don't know what life's doing. 

I don't know how we're to think. 
AARON: Ambitiously. 

These incidents all march our way. The Libyans 

Over the border revolution Time 

Is preparing for us with a timely unrest. 

We came to Egypt at the perfect hour as it happens. 
SHENDI: That's enough of talk like that! 
MIRIAM: As it happens; 

If we knew what happens. Shendi an officer! 

Will this be what we want, at last? As the Nile 

Happens into blood. Shendi an officer. 
SHENDI: And the officers' quarters, remember: comfort. 
MIRIAM: As massacre 

And revolution happens. As to-morrow 

Happens, whatever happens to-morrow. 
SHENDI: Come on, 

I must go. 

MOSES: Refuse this commission. 

SHENDI: What did you say? 

MOSES: Refuse this commission. 
MIRIAM : Refuse it? 

SHENDI: Listen to that! 

As my uncle happens, this is no surprise. 


Only one of the family must rise 

And glow in "Egypt. We see the Hebrew sky 

Must only bear one star, and at that a meteor 

Which has fizzled. The rest of us can keep 

Against the ground, our light withering 

Into painful roots, and lose the whole damned world 

Because Moses prefers it. But in spite of that, 

In spite of that, generous brother of my mother, 

We hope to live a little. 
AARON: As who does not? 

The Pharaoh, I quite see, will have his motives. 

But we can outmove motives to our advantage; 

And here surely is a kind of proffered hand. 
MIRIAM: Why should he refuse? How could he refuse? He 

But who except you would say he should? 
SHENDI: It's clear 

Why he says it. It was he who came back for recogni- 

And I have got it. 
MOSES: Make yourself live, then, Shendi; 

But be sure it is life. The golden bear Success 

Hugs a man close to its heart; and breaks his bones. 

We come upon ourselves, as though we were chance, 

Often by the most unwilling decisions 

Our maturities hide themselves from our wishes. 

And where at last we touch our natures into lif e 

Is at that drastic angle of experience 

Where we divide from our natures. What have they 

These Egyptians? Come with us and we'll treat you 

Not, come with us and we will treat 

You and your people well. 
AARON: They will come in time 

Even to say that. 
SHENDI (to MOSES) : This sounds well 

Indeed, from you! 

FRY: The Firstborn 

MIRIAM: Shendi is to be all 

That he can become all; and I say so, 
I who made him. Am I to go on holding 
The guilt for his unhappiness when opportunity 
Offers to deliver me from it? Guilt it was, 
And damnation, for giving him birth. This will let me 

SHENDI: Why do we listen to him? I know how to value 
The first fairness I've known. If you think so little 
Of being alive, uncle, you will find they're assembling 
Spears to flash on Libya. Why not make something 
Of that? The tradition is that, once upon a time, 
You didn't know the meaning of apprehension 
Or fear back in those days when it was you 
They treated well. 

ANATH (in the tent-opening): Does he still not appre- 
Or fear? 

SHENDI: Madam, madam 

\NATH: What are you doing 

To Egypt, Moses? 

MOSES : What have you come for? 

ANATH: You. 

And have you really no fear? You are afraid 
Of me, I think. Isn't it I who possess 
That level of yourself which you are in torment 
To see again? Can something you do not want 
Be so great a relentless need? Not anything 
Of me, but what I have of you. Your thoughts 
Cannot accept me, but I am here. Oh, 
Poor man, I am here! 

MOSES: I'm stronger than memory. 

ANATH: It sucks the blood. 

What are you doing to Egypt, Moses? 

MOSES: What 

Is Egypt doing to Egypt? 

ANATH: Or Egypt to you. 

You shall try your strength against memory the insect. 


Come with me. I came by the old walks. 

What have I seen? You shall come with me 

And see it and tell me, and see the men and women 

Bewildered in the doorways, for the name of their world 

Has changed from home to horror. And is this 

What you have in your heart for Egypt? Then favour 

And also have it in your eyes. 

MOSES: But why 

Do you come to me? To whose blood has the Nile 
Turned? It isn't mine. Can it be the spilt blood 
Of Israelites that is flowing back on Egypt? 
Why come to me? 

ANATH: He wants reason! Rationalize 

The full moon and the howling dog. I have less 
Inclination to be here than the dog has to howl. 
If you come with me to Seti, he's ready to talk to you. 

MOSES: We've talked already. 

ANATH: Hell let you take your Hebrews 

To make their worship, or whatever you want of them, 
On some conditions which he'll tell you. 

AARON: Cood. 

Events are moving, 
MOSES: If Seti is so ready, 

Why did you make the walk through the ominous eve- 

To remind me that I'm in Egypt? 
ANATH: Because he is sitting 

Pressing his thumbs together, wedged inactive 

In between his decision and pride. What it is 

To have to do with men! They live too large. 

Isn't it so, Miriam? I'm ready to take you. 
MOSES: rilcome. 

AARON: This will be a great day for Israel. 

MIRIAM: My son has been made an officer. 
ANATH: I shall be glad 

Not to be alone this time, with the earth 

Wavering to a hint of doom. I suppose 

FRY: The Firstborn 123 

There have to be powers of darkness, but they should 

To the rules. The sky is lighter. The worst may be 


MOSES: Aaron, you will come too. 
AARON: It has been easier 

Than I should have thought possible this morning. 

SHENDI: What is this business the Pharaoh has with my 

MIBIAM; I mustn't think of Moses. Many things 

I must be sure to keep my thoughts quite away from. 
What is it we have to do? A dark mind 
And he has followed that woman. 
SHENDI: Will he try to stop my commission going 


MIRIAM: No, no, he's forgotten it. 
SHENDI: What does he matter, then? 

I'm an officer! 

MIRIAM: How could the water be blood, Shendi? 

SHENDI: What? 

MIRIAM : Til put your things together for you. 

How grand we shall be! 


SCENE TWO: A room in the Palace. SETT. ANATH. 

ANATH: Keep the window covered, Seti. The terrace 
Crackles with dying locusts. I looked out. 
I seemed to look within, on to myself, 
When I stood there and looked out over Egypt. 
The face of all this land is turned to the wall. 
I looked out, and when I looked to the north I saw 


Instead of quiet cattle, glutted jackals, 

Not trees and pasture but vulture-bearing boughs 

And fields which had been sown with hail. And looking 

To the south I saw, like f ailing ashes after fire, 

Death after thirst, death after hunger, death 

After disease. And when I looked to the east 

I saw an old woman ridding herself of lice; 

And to the west, a man who had no meaning 

Pushing thigh-deep through drifts of locusts. 

SETI: Well; these things are finished 

ANATH: And what happens 

Now? What will you do when the mourners have done 
Wailing, and men look across the havoc of their fields 
And the bones of their cattle and say: You did this, 
What happens now? 

SETT: Why am I to be blamed 

For all the elemental poisons that come up fungoid 
Out of the damps and shadows which our existence 
Moves in? Can I put peace into the furious 
God epilepsy of earthquake and eruption? 
What am I but one of those you pity? 

ANATH: You tricked him, you tricked Moses, and not 


But seven times. First when I, against 
All my self -warning, approached the unapproachable 
And brought him to you. Didn't you make him promises 
Then, and break them? And that night your promises 
Plagued our ears with a croaking mockery, 
With an unceasing frog-echo of those words 
Which had meant nothing; with a plague of frogs! 
A second time you made promises, and a third time 
And a fourth: seven times you've broken them 
While the stews of creation had their way with Egypt. 

SETI: You say this, concoct this legend; you have become 
Infected with the venom that's against me. 

ANATH: No, IVe no venom. I've no more efficacy 
Than a fishwife who has been made to breed against 
Her will; and so I'm shrill and desperate. 

FRY: The Firstborn 125 

No power against misery! That's what our lives add up 


Our spacious affability, our subtle intelligence, 
Our delicate consciousness of worlds beyond the world, 
Our persuasive dignity when sacrificing to the gods, 
Our bodies and our brains can all become 
Slutted with lice between afternoon and evening. 
You tricked him a second time, and that is what 
You saw: sweet made foul. And then the third time 
And we became the dungheap, the lusted of flies, 
The desirable excretion. Our pleasantness was flyblown. 

SETI: I've suffered this once with Egypt 

ANATH: You tricked Moses. 

And what has come of it I would bring back to you 
Until pity came out of you like blood to the knife, 
Remembering how disease swept all the cattle, 
How we could not sleep for intolerable lowing 
Till daylight rounded up the herds of wolftorn 
Death. You tricked him, and that feculent moment 
Filthied our blood and made of us a nation 
Loathsome with boils. You had stirred up the muck 
Which the sweet gods thought fit to make us of 
When they first formed man, the primal putrescence 
We keep hidden under our thin dress of health. 
What a pretty world, this world of filthmade kings! 
When, after the sixth time, the hail came down, 
I laughed. The hail was hard, metallic, cold 
And clean, beating on us with the ferocity 
Of brainbright anger. As cut diamonds, clean, 
Clean, and fit to be beaten down by. When 
It stamped out the gardens and cracked the skulls of 


It bruised away the memory of vermin 
And struck our faces fairly. If then, if only 
Then our consciousness had gone clean out, 
Or if then you had let these Israelites go with Moses, 
We should not now so vainly 
ShufHe our fingers in the dust to find 


The name we once were known by. But you tricked 

For the seventh time, and then the curse of the locusts 

Strangled the whole air, the whole earth, 

Devoured the last leaf of the old life 

That we had sometime lived. The land is naked 

To the bone, and men are naked beyond the bone, 

Down to the barest nakedness which until now 

Hope kept covered up. Now climb and sit 

On the throne of this reality, and be 

A king. 


Anath! These plagues were not my doing 
And you know they were not. No man would say I 

caused them. 

Only a woman with her mind hung 
With a curtain of superstition would say so. 

ANATH: I admit it. 

I am superstitious. I have my terrors. 
We are born too inexplicably out 
Of one night's pleasure, and have too little security: 
No more than a beating heart to keep us probable. 
There must be other probabilities. 
You tricked Moses after I had gone myself 
To bring him to you, and what followed followed. 

SETI: It is true I made certain concessions to Moses 
And reconsidered them. I was prepared 
To let him have his way, if in return 
He would use his great abilities to our advantage. 
But am I to have no kind of surety 
That hell return, after this godhunt of his? 
I said to him Take the men but their wives and children 
Must remain. And then I went further: I told him to 

Both men and women, but the children must stay. And 

at last 

I only insisted on their cattle, since our cattle 
Were dead. I'll not be panicked by this chain 
Of black coincidence, which he with his genius 
For generalship has taken advantage of. 

FRY: The Firstborn 127 

He presumes upon the eternal because he has 

No power to strike his bargain. I have not done 

These things to Egypt. I'll not hear it be said. 
ANATH: Well, they're done. Blame has no value anyway. 

There's not one of us whose life doesn't make mischief 

Somewhere. Now after all you've had to give way. 

We must calculate again, calculate without Moses. 

I picked unhappy days in those girlhood rushes. 

But at least we can sweep away the locusts. 
SETI: You understand 

There will be no postponement of Ramases' marriage. 

We can look forward to that, and the change of fortune 

Which I shall force presently. I haven't by any means 

Put my policy aside. 
ANATH: What do you mean? 

Moses by now has called the assembly of the Hebrews. 

By now Egypt has heard the news. Moses 

Has taken policy out of your hands. 
SETI: I sent 

Word after him. 
ANATH: Seti! What word did you send? 

What have you done now against our chance 

Of rest? What word did you send? Answer me, Seti! 

Your promise you said this time was final. There was 

No need or possibility of another word. 

What have you done? 
SETI: I have only been careful 

To protect your future. Even before Moses 

Had gone three steps from the palace there came the 

Of another defeat. Fate has taken a hammer 

To chip and chip and chip at our confidence. 

But while I still have Moses to come at my call 

I have not lost him. And while he needs my help 

He will continue to come. And when he is tired 

Well make a bargain. 
ANATH: All this, then, over again. 

You're mad. It isn't we who make the bargains 


In this life, but chance and time. I tell you it's madness! 


SETI : I heard nothing. 

ANATH: It is Teusret. 

She draws aside the curtain and goes on to the ter- 

TEUSRET (unseen) : Ramases! 

SETI: What's the matter? She sounds afraid. 

ANATH: Teusret! Teusret! What has happened to you? 
TEUSRET (unseen) : Where is Ramases? 

Where is he? 

ANATH: Come here, my frightened darling. 

I haven't seen Ramases. But we are here, 
Your father and I. 
SETI: Is she hurt? 

ANATH: She is no longer 

Yesterday's Teusret. I have been watching how 
She cannot altogether recognize who she now is. 
Yesterday's Teusret was for yesterday's world. 
SETT: She shouldn't call and cry where everyone can watch 

TEUSRET comes on to the terrace. ANATH takes 
her in her arms. 

ANATH: What is it? Take your head out of my heart 
And tell me what it is. Each of us just now 
Is an odd number with himself, but between us 
We should be able to add up to something even. 
Put yourself with me and see what we come to. 
TEUSRET: Oh, Aunt! 
ANATH: Can it be said? 

TEUSRET: Nothing can really be said, 

Do you believe that? When I try for words 
I disappear from myself. 

SETT: Come to me a moment, Teusret. 

Now, what has frightened you? Tell me; we can't have 

you crying. 

TEUSRET: My thoughts! They went inside the world. I 

FRY: The Firstborn 129 

Seem to be able to get out. I think it's impossible 

To live any more. What can I do? 
ANATH: Insist on living. 

More curious things happen than happiness. 
TEUSRET: No, happiness is the most curious of all. 

While I was reading, the last weeks 

Came again and put their hands across 

The page and closed themselves over me 

Until I was inside the world. And there, 

Ruling everything, is a whirlpool, trying 

To escape, disguising and disguising itself, 

Spitting out intricate concoctions of itself, 

Shrill birds, bearded animals, heartbreaking 

And perfumed flowers, delirious design 

And complexity, flesh, near-flesh, seeing, seeing 

To escape, with claw, voice, wing, appetite, 

Beauty, fang, colour and poison, all 

Nothing but a maddened beating against the walls 

Of space, all consuming themselves or consuming 

Others or being consumed. And that's the sun 

Rising and setting and the smooth endless 

Music of the Nile. Oh the pretence 

Of good when everything is hateful! 
ANATH: But you 

Are not, and I hope I am not, so there 

Are two things to put back into the world. 
SETT: I have something to show you, Teusret. 

We're not altogether destitute, you will see, 

Of what is fine. 

TEUSRET: What can you show me? 

SETI: A vein 

Of the earth. How does this seem to you? 

He has brought out from a casket a collar of pre- 
cious stones. 
TEUSRET: O father. 

Let me see! Perfect, perfect thing. 

I'm too warm. Being held will melt it. 


SETI: Drops of cornelian. 

These are diamonds. Hebrew labourers dug them. 

Now, Anath, you see how ill we could afford 

To lose them. 
ANATH: Our grandmother wore these. 

It is a pity that all the love-affairs 

Between women and their jewels are broken off. 
TEUSRET: May I wear it? 
SETI: You can try it on. 

It is for Phipa when she comes. 
TEUSRET: The world 

Is spun for Phipa! Everything for that girl! 

Even these, though they seem to chatter so merrily 

With the light, even these are the enemy! They go 

To make Ramases welcome to her. There's beauty! 
SETI: If that is how they affect you, give them back 

TEUSRET: Take them! They were merely cast up 

By the whirlpool anyway. If you can pretend 

That our lives are still going on and if you can plan 

Days and days of triumph because Ramases 

Is going to marry a girl he has never met, 

That's your own dream-story. You can't make me clap 

And say that it's true. But you're using him for Egypt's 

Purpose, and whether he's happy or unhappy 

To you it's equally good. Let us alone! 

YouVe got to let us alone! 

She is running towards the door. Enter RAMASES. 
She cries out his name. He puts her arms gently 
away from him 9 intent on his father. She runs past 
him and out. 
RAMASES: Father, 

Is it true you've withdrawn your latest promise to 

SETI: Whatever I have done or not done isn't to be said 

In a sentence. 

FRY: The Firstborn 131 

RAMASES: They say it's true. Wherever I have gone 

Dank rumour has been rising off the pavements, chilling 
Into the heart of the people: "Pharaoh has refused 
Moses again. What new disastrous day 
Is coming?" I tell you I've been out walking 
Under the burning windows of the people's eyes. 
You've stood fast long enough. Let Moses take 
The Hebrews. 

SETI: So you also are afraid of magic 

And believe that this tall Moses can make a business 

Out of curses? Do you suppose if I surrendered to him 

There would be any less roaring in the wind 

Or less infection in disease? Why 

Aren't you beside me like another man, 

Instead of so fretting me with nursery behaviour 

That I could strike you? I made life in your mother 

To hand me strength when I should need it. That life 

Was you. I made you exactly for this time 

And I find you screeching to escape it. 

RAMASES : I have been 

Through streets that no men should have to walk in. 
You must let the Hebrews go. Father, you must! 

SETI: You know nothing, you little fool, nothing! Govern 
By your idiocy when I am dead. 


Will you leave for me to govern, or what by then 
Shall I have become, what figure of faded purple 
Who clears his throat on an unimportant throne? 
I am to you only the boy who comes 
To the door to say goodnight on his way to bed. 
It's you who invite the future but it's I 
Who have to entertain it, remember that. 
What is expedience for you may become 
Dark experience for me. And these last weeks 
I've heard the future's loping footfall, as plague 
Came after plague, and I knew the steps 
Were not passing but approaching. You 


Were persuading them. They came each time a little 

Nearer, and each time closer to me. 

Keep your word to Moses. Let him take them. 

SETI: I tell you it isn't possible. 

RAMLASES: Then get 

Yourself another heir, and make him eat 
Your black bread of policy. Marry yourself 
To this girl from Syria. My plans are different. 

SETI: Your plans are different! You insolent cub, you 


Insolent cub! And so your plans are different? 
You've already made your plans! 

RAMJVSES: Wait. What 

Was that noise? 

ANATH: The old familiar. A man crying out. 

What difference is one man's groaning more or less? 

RAMASES (looking from the terrace}: Oh horrible! What 

is it that makes men 

And makes them like this man? Abortions of nature. 
It is true what they said. 

ANATH: What is true? 

RAMASES: What the other officers said, what I thought 

they spread 

About out of malice: that Shendi outstruts them all, 
Drives the Hebrews harder than any Egyptian 
Drives them, hits them down with a readier fist, 
And smiles and thrives under the admiration 
Of the overseers. Go out on the terrace if you doubt me 
And see him, Shendi, the son of Miriam, a Jew 
Beating a Jew. 

SETI: So perhaps at last, 

So perhaps at last you will have seen 
That what you thought was child's play, black and white, 
Is a problem of many sides. And you will kindly 
Wait and learn. This fellow does the work 
Which you yourself suggested he should do 
And does it conscientiously, without sentiment. 

RAMASES: I suggested he should do it. Yes. 

FRY: The Firstborn 133 

I put the whip in his hand. I raised that arm. 

I struck that Jew. I did it. I did not know 

How the things we do, take their own life after 

They are done, how they can twist themselves 

Into foul shapes. I can now see better 

The deathly ground we live on. Yes, all right, 

I have surrendered. Whatever happens will happen 

Without me. I've finished meddling. 
ANATH: Ramases! 

Of all the Jews one Jew has done this. 
RAMASES: It might be 

A thousand instead of one. 
ANATH: Ramases, only 

One Jew! 
SETI: Would you even encourage the traitor 

In my son, because of your fear of this Moses? 
ANATH: Yes, 

I would make him rebellious, and if I could I would 

Every limb of your body rebellious; 

I'd paralyse that pride which with such cunning 

Packs us into a daily purgatory 

Of apprehension. 
SETI: The purgatory may save you 

From damnation. But turn yourselves all against me. 

I stand now living and breathing only to protect 

This country from disintegration. 

The gods, how we fumble between right and wrong, 

Between our salvation and our overthrow, 

Like drunk men with a key in the dark who stand 

At the right door but cannot get out of the cold. 

May the moment of accident bless us. 
RAMASES: I shall not 

Rebel again. That will be one trouble less. 
SETI: Stand beside me. We're almost of equal height 

And may yet come to be of equal mind; 

And if that is so, one of us will find 


The way of escape out of this distress 

Of ours, either you or I. 

Enter KEF, a Minister to the 'Pharaoh. 
KEF: My lord Pharaoh. 

SETT: News; come on. 

KEF: Better to hear it alone. 

SETT: Bad news. Well, let's have it. Catastrophe 

Is no longer my secret. Let us have it all. 
KEF: My lord 
SETT: Go on, go on, 

KEF: A report that the Libyans 

Have annihilated the reinforcing fifth 


SETT: It is impossible. 

KEF : They were surrounded 

And surprised. Only six men got through. 
SETI: Six men. 

RAMASES: Six men. 
SETT: They make me a pack-horse to carry despair. 

They load me to the last inch. 

TEUSRET: Moses has come 

Again. I saw him walking like a lion 

Behind bars, up and down in your battered garden, 

Ramases. The sentries had tried to hold him 

But he broke through their spears as though he didn't 
see them. 

He looked at me, his eyes the colour of anger; 

He looked at me and gripped a mulberry-bough 

And broke it, and said Go to your father, fetch me 

Your father. 
SETT: He can walk longer and break more boughs. 

He shall wait, and find that Egypt is hard ground 

Under his lion's walk. (To KEF) Go out to the over- 

And tell them to tighten discipline, to give 

No rest to those Hebrews, not to let man, woman 

Or child straighten their backs while they still stand. 

FRY: The Firstborn 135 

I shall not see him until I choose; and, when 
I choose, for his people's sake, he'll do what I need. 
See this done. 
Exit KEF. 

ANATH: Seti, take care; take care 

What you do. 

SETT: Let Moses think again what behaviour 

Is best, best to save his people. 

ANATH: And all 

We can do is to wait, wait and wait in this 
Uneasy entrance hall of doubtful omen, 
Feeling like pale petitioners who have already 
Waited beyond all bearing. 

TEUSRET: Ramases, 

What is it? Why are you so silent? Are you afraid 
As well? Are you afraid? Are you, Ramases? 

RAMASES: Why should I be? The sweet part of the 


All over, but that's nothing. It had to go. 
My mind had lutes and harps and nodding musicians 
Who drowned my days with their casual tunes. They 

have been 

Paid off by this honest hour. And now I hear 
My voice raised in deathly quiet. It's insufferable 
That my voice, without the accompaniment of good 


Should be so out of key, so faltering, 
So cracking with puberty. Aunt Anath, 
What's the meaning of my manhood, to be found 
So helpless, to be so helpless: an arbitrary thing 
Of nerves and brain which this ambitious mud 
We loyally call World and Planet, has spawned 
Upon itself to give itself passion, 
Five senses and despair. What is there to do 
Which I could do and haven't yet seen? 

ANATH: We're no longer alone. 

MOSES stands in the doorway. 


TEUSRET: Look, Ramases. 

MOSES : Where is Seti? 

ANATH: He will not see you. 

MOSES: When will he learn? When, 

When, when will he learn? We have agonized 

This land with anger for too many days. 

And he together. No birth is worth this labour. 
MOSES: For three hundred years the pangs of this coming 

Have been suffered by my people, while Egypt played. 

But now Egypt suffers, and she says 

This is a new hell. But hell is old; 

And you yourself sitting in sunlight 

Embroidered on it with your needle. Hell 

Is old, but until now 

It fed on other women, that is all. 
ANATH: And all is the innocent as well as the guilty; 

All is the small fanner and the singing fisherman 

And the wife who sweeps; to-morrow's boy as well 

As yesterday's. All these, while Seti twists 

To have his way, must go to your fire like sticks. 
RAMASES (looking from the terrace): The gods help them 

nowl The gods help those Hebrews! 
MOSES: It must be one people or another, your people 

Or mine. It is Seti who like a monstrous mole 

Blindly throws up this mountain of pain. I 

Am the conscript of an autocracy of grief. 

Injuries, nursed in sullen obliterated graves, 

Anguish that is lost in dust sometime 

That time-gone sea of troubled hands, my forefathers* 

Martyrdom, signed me away, gave an oath for my heart 

Long before I lived. And deflected purpose 

Or altered ambition, or the stirred and terrible affections 

Cannot discharge me. You appeal to Moses, 

But Moses is now only a name and an obedience. 

It is the God of the Hebrews, springing out 

Of unknown ambush, a vigour moving 

FRY: The Firstborn 137 

In a great shadow, who draws the supple bow 
Of his mystery, to loose this punishing arrow 

Feathered with my fate; he who in his hour 

Broke the irreparable dam which kept his thought, 

Released the spumy cataract birth and death 

To storm across time and the world; 

He who in his morning 

Drew open the furious petals of the sun; 

He who through his iron fingers 

Lets all go, lets all waste and go, 

Except, dearly retained in his palm, the soul: 

He, the God of my living, the God of the Hebrews, 

Has stooped beside Israel 

And wept my life like a tear of passion 

On the iniquity of Egypt 
ANATH: So the great general steps down to captaincy. 

I wonder. Does this god use you 

Or do you use this god? What is this divinity 

Which with no more dexterity than a man 

Rips up good things to make a different land 

Of good? For any god's sake, if you came here 

To get justice, also give justice. 

In this mood the lot goes headlong. 
MOSES: Headlong! 

And our memories too. And our hands which once 

Knew how to come together, must now forever 

Hide themselves in our dress. We are utterly separate. 
RAMASES: Look at the sky! A sea of cloud, blind-black, 

Is pouring on to the beaches of the sun! 
TEUSRET: Oh, it will swamp the sailing of the air! 

The sky will be gone from us, it's taking the sky! 

What shall we do? 
ANATH: Hush, Teusret. 

The stage grows dark. 
MOSES: Seti 

May see better without the light of day. 

The hand of God has gone across his eyes 

And closed all life upon itself. Egypt 


Goes inward, by a gate which shuts more heavily than 

Leaving man alone with his baffled brain. 

Only Seti can let the sun free again. 
ANATH: It is here! The darkness! 
MOSES: Tell him, tell Seti 

That I wait for his answer. 

Curtain to Act Two 


SCENE ONE: MIRIAM'S tent at night. AARON. Enter MIRIAM. 

AARON: Everything has been done, I think. I have daubed 

The lamb's blood three times over the entry 

And all that remained of the meat has been burned. 

Miriam! You; not Moses! What do you want 

Here at close on midnight? 
MIRIAM: Must I want something 

To come into my own tent? 
AARON: Tell me; what is it? 

There's no time left. Has the news got past our silence? 

Do they know? That's why you've come in the night. 
The Egyptians 

Are one ahead of us! 
MIRIAM: News? I've got no news. 

Is there any news at midnight? I've come to sleep. 
AARON: Why not sleep, as you did, in the city with 


MIRIAM: Do I have to stand and be catechized in my 
own tent? 

If you want to ferret in unlighted places 

FRY: The Firstborn 139 

Penetrate into the mind of Moses, and let me 

AARON: His mind will be our history 

Before the morning. Whatever is about to happen 
I cannot doubt that something is about to happen 
Will divulge him to us at last. I have become 
Almost docile to his darkness. By what providence 
I wonder, did you come back? There was no way 
Of getting word to you, but you came, thank God. 
Whatever is wrong for you, to make you walk 
So far to sleep, this midnight of Moses 
(I call it to myself his midnight) will clarify 
Into right. 

MIRIAM: Wrong things and right things! 

So you still talk of those, those things that are catches 
To make us lose heart. Take evil by the tail 
And you find you are holding good head-downwards. 
Let me go to sleep. 

AARON: Something that Shendi has done 

Has brought you back. 

MIRIAM: Shendi, Shendi to blamel 

To you Shendi is always blameable. 
Because at last he can have ambitions, 
Because he's ripping up the bare boards 
His boyhood lay on, to make himself a fire 
Which will warm his manhood, we turn on him yes, 
I also, as much as you I stormed so. 
I? The right to blame him? The wrong to have borne 


To that childhood. Why shouldn't he be finished with 
the lot of us? 

AARON: So he turned you out: he sent you away. 

MIRIAM: I left him. 

I came away from him. I couldn't watch him 
Live what is now his life. 

AARON: I won't think of him. 

MIRIAM: Hell succeed without your thoughts. 

AARON: Look at me, Miriam. 


MIRIAM: You're going away. 

AARON: And so is all Israel. 

We all have staves in our hands and our feet shod 
For travelling; Moses* orders. He also gave 
Other orders; they were very curious. 
We have all had to eat lambs' flesh, seasoned 
With bitter herbs. As I see it, Miriam, 
That is his characteristic way of achieving 
Unity among us, before the event, 
That we should all fill this waiting time by doing 
The same thing, however trivial. And then 
We have splashed the blood three times over the door- 

That is quite inexplicable. It is drying in the night air, 
At this moment, while I speak. What happens, I ask 

When it is dry? It means our freedom. He has told me 


To-night we're to go free. And when I look at him 
I have to permit myself a wonderful hope. 

MIRIAM: He came back from Midian a madman. 

AARON: His madness seems to be a land of extended 


But he tells me nothing, nothing is discussed or planned 
Even with me, his lieutenant. And this closeness 
Has hurt me, I won't try to deny it. And yet 
He has me by the scruff of the heart and I ask 
No questions. I've begun to believe that the reasonable 
Is an invention of man, altogether in opposition 
To the facts of creation, though I wish it hadn't 
Occurred to me. I've been with Moses, watching 
How in tent after tent he manipulated 
Man upon man into consciousness. Though perhaps 
They don't know of what they're conscious, any more 

than I do. 
Except of the night; of the night, Miriam! I would 

The night is dedicated to our cause. 

FRY: The Firstborn 141 

You must have seen it: there's such a brightness., 

Such a swingeing stillness, the sky has transfixed itself; 

As though it hung with every vigorous star 

On some action to be done before daybreak. 

Is it my nerves? A sort of high apprehensive fever? 

I can't discuss myself. To-morrow this glitter 

And piercing peace may be something of our own. 
MIRIAM: Peace! Give it to me, for God's sake. 

All I could see was the peace of the crouching creature 

Hanging upon its pounce. 

Enter SHENDI. 
SHENDI: Why must he be here? 

I have something to say to you, mother. 
MIRIAM: Not any more 

To-night; nothing more said to-night. Go back 

To your bed. 

SHENDI : Yes, > u 1 1 must listen ! 

AARON: Listen to your tongue 

Or your brotherly whip? 
MIRIAM: He knows already what we feel. 

Now let him alone. 
SHENDI: Let him think what he likes; I have come 

To you, not to him. We've taken so long to get 

What at last we have: why must you spoil it? I know; 

It was the spate of our tempers, gone again now. 

If you go away from me, more than half the triumph 

Is lost. You haven't been my mother for nothing. 

I mean to see you happy. 
MIRIAM: I shall stay alone. 

SHENDI: Oh, it's fantastic. What did you expect 

My work to be? And how can we be scrupulous 

In a life which, from birth onwards, is so determined 

To wring us dry of any serenity at all? 
MIRIAM: You must do as you must. 
AARON: But in the morning 

He may wish he had chosen otherwise. 
SHENDI: What do you mean? 

Let me hear what you mean by that. Have you 


And your brother done some dirtiness against me 

To put me wrong with the Pharaoh? I know you'd 
founder me 

If you had the chance 

Enter MOSES. 
MOSES: Get ready. Miriam, And you, 

Shendi. Get together all that you value. 

You won't come to this tent again. 
MIRIAM: Get ready? 

All that I value? What would that be, I wonder? 

Tell your delirium to be precise. 
AARON: This midnight is his. For pity's sake believe it, 

Miriam. Then all our wills resolved into 

One Will 
SHENDI: His, of course! The stupendous mischief 

Of the man! I beg your pardon if he no longer 

Rates himself as a man after living through 

The pestilences as though he owned them. 

You can blame him, not me, for the punishment 

I give the labourers. He makes them undisciplined 

With his raving of freedom which they'll never get. 

It's he, not I, who knits the darker and darker 

Frowns for Pharaoh it's he who's the one for you 

To abominate, if anybody. 
MOSES: Be ready for journey. 

The time is prepared for us. What we were is sinking 

Under the disposition of what will be. 

Let it so dispose; let us not fondle our wrongs 

Because they're familiar. Now, as the night turns, 

A different life, pitched above our experience 

Or imagining, is moving about its business. 

To-night Aaron, Miriam, Shendi our slavery 

Will be gone. 

AARON: Do you hear what he says? 

MIRIAM: What is he hiding? 

There's something he knows. 
AARON: Something known by the night; 

That was how it felt to me. 

FRY: The Firstborn 143 

SHENDI: Come out of this, 

Mother. They need more room to foam and splutter in. 

If you come back with me you know you can be sure 

Of a rational world of pleasant men and women. 

Isn't that so? You don't want to stay here. 
MIRIAM: I want to know why he's standing there, so cer- 

That something will happen to-night. What does he 


SHENDI: The shape of his own mouth. 
AARON: Confidence 

In what he knows, but not in us, alas; 

Not in me. The advance begins, and I am in command 

Of my perfect ignorance, Moses, tell me, is that 

How it is to be? 

MIRIAM: What is it you know? 

MOSES: The sound 

Of God. It comes; after all, it comes. It made 

The crucial interchange of earth with everlasting; 

Found and parted the stone lips of this 

Egyptian twilight in the speech of souls, 

Moulding the air of all the world, and desiring 

Into that shell of shadow, a man's mind 

Into my own. Only now, only 

Now, Aaron, as it moves away, 

Can I try to form it to you. Miriam, 

This is what I know, and how I know what comes 

MIRIAM: Am I to believe it? Isn't this no more 

Than I thought it would be: the thumping of the 

frenzy in him? 

AARON: What was told? What was said? 
SHENDI: Oh, leave them 

To excite each other. I'm going if you're not. Perhaps 

By to-morrow you'll see reason. I'll come back then. 
MOSES: Stay where you are. Can you comprehend 

That we're sometimes hoisted by the unbelievable 

On to the shoulders of truth? Our custom is 


To live backward of reality. When it turns its face 

How can it be recognized? But a refusal 

Of recognition is like a cancellation 

Of our existence. Do you deny voice 

To that power, the whirler of suns and moons, whei 


Dust can speak, as it does in Moses now? 
It comes. And by the welding of what loved me 
And what harmed me, I have amazingly been brought 
To that stature which has heard. To-night, at midnight 
God will unfasten the hawk of death from his 
Grave wrist, to let it rake our world, 
Descend and obliterate the firstborn of Egypt, 
All the firstborn, cattle, flocks, and men: 
Mortality lunging in the midnight fields 
And briding in the beds: a sombre visit 
Such as no nation has known before. Upon 
All Egypt! Only we who have the darkness 
Here in our blood, under the symbol of blood 
Over our doors, only we of Israel 
Standing ready for the morning will be unvisited. 

AARON: So this is what you know. 

SHENDI: What he wants, what he fondly 

Imagines. Is he so dull he can't see the risk 
Of heaving this up in front of me? An officer 
Of Egypt. He may have forgotten it. 

AARON: I should say this is no night to be an Egyptian. 

MIRIAM: There will never be this midnight! It will still 
Stop short of us! 

SHENDI: Why did I follow you here 

To get drawn into this? That fox has his tail on fire 
And someone should know about it. For the last time, 
Are you conning? 

MIRIAM: Don't go back not Just 

Within a pace of this midnight; Shendi, not now 
When I've lost the knack of knowing sense from non- 

FRY: The Firstborn 145 

The city, for my peace of mind, can find its way 

Over midnight without you. 
SHENDI: I can see 

What's been thought out between you. Were you the 

To fetch me here? And now that you have me away 

You think you'll keep me: here, dropped back in the 

What a chance of it! Must I tell you that I'm an Egyp- 

An Egyptian! I'm an Egyptian! Now what becomes 

Of your craftiness and your birdlime? 
MIRIAM: No! No! 

The midnight is in us before it comes; it comes to us 

Out of ourselves! I didn't know that you would follow 

You're scoring your own heart for nothing, for nothing, 

Shendi, I only ask you to wait until midnight 

Is safely past us. 
AARON: Soon enough now; before 

We know where we are. 
SHENDI: Do you think you can make a fool of me? 

Do I look so very credulous? Don't I know 

How he's waited for me to slip up, because he 

Slipped up? 
MOSES: Break and finish that! With every ram 

Of your intelligence, break that jealous, bitter 

And scheming puppet you have dubbed with my name. 

Are you going to let the non-existing 

Dog and destroy your existence? That Moses in your 

Is a lie. 
SHENDI: What does it matter whether he is 

Or he isn't? You want to bring Egypt down, 

To fell her with the weight of her own achievement. 

What else but Egypt is able to make birth 

A proposition? You aim to destroy excellence 


For what you call a justice. Justice 

Is the greatness that comes to the great! 
MOSES: It's the crossing of mind 

With mind. How can I make you see me, clear 

Of what you want to believe? 
SHENDI: I see you well enough. 

YouVe taken ten years looking for the logic of your 

And now you think you've found it. 
ftARON: Midnight, midnight! 

Have you both forgotten it? No doubt the timing of 

Will be extremely exact. But in fact we realize 

Nothing. If it comes, how completely 

Shall we realize it then? And does nothing, no presen- 

Creep on the heart of Pharaoh at this moment? 

I wonder, does nothing make him fetch his firstborn 

Beside him 
MOSES: Aaron! 

MIRIAM: Shendi, let me keep you here 

For one hour only, to protect me from panic. 
MOSES: Aaron! 

Do you see the ambush I have blundered into? 

I heard God, as though hearing were understanding. 

But he kept his hands hidden from me. He spoke, 

But while he spoke he pointed. Aaron, he pointed 

At Ramases, and I couldn't see! 
AARON: The boy 

Pays for the father, as though we bred in order 

To redeem ourselves. 
MOSES: Why had I not thought of him? 

I had such tremendous heart. It seemed at last 

As though we had reached the breaking of the seals, 

When we no longer should be set down blindfold 

To build upon light. I saw the passion of bewilderment 

Drawing off from the earth. But can we go forward 

Only by the ravage of what we value? Surely 

FRY: The Firstborn 147 

I who have been the go-between for God 
Can say that this is not part of my intention 
And be heard? 

AARON: What, at this point? Is this how you fought 

Your other wars? There were boys then who put 
Eager toes into fatal stirrups, who were young 
And out of lif e altogether in the same 
Almighty and unthinkable moment. You learnt 
Then to grieve and advance, uninterrupted. 
And so it has to be now. 

MOSES: If it were the same! 

But I am stealing Ramases without warning 
And handing him to oblivion. Look what it is. 
God is putting me back with the assassins. 
Is that how he sees me? Does one deed 
Become our immortal shape? And Egypt! Egypt! 
He was meant for Egypt. If I have any freedom 
More than the freedom of my thoughts, I must make 
Providence mutual with my world of sense, 
Or else I shall become wandering in my soul. 
Ramases must be dragged clear of this runaway 
Misconceiving miracle of God. 
It isn't he that I shall be forced to spend 
To get the fulfilment of what I do! Aaron, 
You are here in my place until I come again. 
Keep Shendi with you. 

AARON: Where are you going? 

MOSES : To the palace. 

AARON: What will you do? Am I to be left midstream 
Of a miracle, not even knowing what it portends? 

MOSES: Do nothing but watch the night become day. All 


I have to know what I am. Keep Shendi with you, 
(He goes) 

AARON: He is in a space somewhere between 
The human and inhuman. That's a terrible 


SHENDI: Did you see how he looked? He believes 

What he said. He looked a ghost haunting his face. 

He believes it all like a child. 
MIRIAM: Shut us in. He has gone. 

Can't we forget the man? 
SHENDI: I won't stay here! 

The place is putrid with childishness. I won't stay! 

Thank goodness I can go where things are healthier, 

Where I can wake a few men and get myself back 

To normal. 
MIRIAM: You know I was born to be uneasy; 

I kindle dragons. Shendi, come away 

From that questionable air outside. 
AARON: It's midnight. 

Wasn't that the winding of the city's horn, 

The sound of twelve? I think so. I have to delay you, 


SHENDI (at the tent-opening) : Nobody will delay me. 
MIRIAM: Stay in the tentl 

AARON: The hour may go past and leave us knowing 

It was unremarkable. But wait till the light, 

Wait, Shendi, keep yourself unseen 

By that inquisition of stars out there. 

Wait for Moses to return. 

MIRIAM: What is it? What have you seen? 
SHENDI: I've lost the city, 

I can't reach it! You trapped me! 
MIRIAM: What do you see? 

SHENDI: The sand is rising and living! Do not let it 

Happen. It can't, it can't rise without a wind. 

Is an invisible nation going through to the north? 

Or what is it the sand can feel? I can't go back, 

God, God, I can't go! 
MIRIAM: Come inside, 

Shendi, come into the tent. 
AARON: Happening, 

You see, happening. Why try to go back? 

FRY: The Firstborn 149 

SHENDI: Some of the men will still be awake. We could 

The lights in the barrack-room. If only some of them 

Would come out to look for me! But who'd come now? 

Do you see how the sand is wavering upright, dis- 

Disturbed in God's name by what? It's by the passing 

Of a trance of eagles! Can you hear it, the noise, 

The rending apart and shuddering-to of wings? 

Where can I get away from this? Nowhere 

Except into the ground. 
MIRIAM: Shendi, here, in the tent. 

In the tent: it will pass the tent. 

AARON (dragging him in) : Are you trying to die? 

SHENDI: Let me go, death; death, let me go! 
AARON: It is I 

Not death. 
SHENDI: It isn't only you. 

The wings were right over me and I was wrenched by a 

That came spinning out of them. Ill not be sent into a 

Ill be what I was. I am Shendi, a Jew. 

How can my blood alter and make me Egyptian? 

I only wanted to be free! (He tears of the insignia of 

Look: Egypt comes away it's no part of me, 

It's easily off. This body is all I am 

It is Shendi, the Jew, Shendi, Shendi, a Jew, 

A Jew! Isn't it so? Then why am I dying? 
MIRIAM: You are not, Shendi; it's gone past us. There's 

nothing more. 

AARON: Look, you're with us. 
SHENDI: Only free to die? 

This wasn't a world. It was death from the beginning. 

Here's my name, without a man to it. My name! 

Let me go. It's a chance! I'll make them see me. Wings, 
He breaks away into the dark. 


Shadows, eagles! I am Shendi, Shendi, the Jew! 
I am Shendi the Jew! Shendi the Jew! 
MIBIAM: Shendi! 

He has gone behind the sand. Son! (She runs into the 


AARON: The night 

Of deliverance. To-night we all go free. 
And Miriam too. He said she would go free. 

The voice of MIRIAM is heard crying out her last 
desperate "Shendi!" 



TEUSRET: Are you casting about in the night for sleep? 
Try well beyond the terrace. Here there isn't 
Even the swimming of minnow drowsiness. 
I have to be stark awake, tired or not. 

ANATH: One restless spirit in the house is enough. 
What is the matter? 

TEUSRET: If you could tell me that 

Perhaps I might sleep. Listen to those men 
Singing in the streets, and two women, or one? 
"I'm waiting where you left me." Are all the souls 
In the city looking for sleep? Can there be nights 
When sleep doesn't exist at all? Please hold me, 
It is only that I've lost my way in myself. 

ANATH: There come those times maybe this is one of 


When, as though we were trespassing on the credible, 
We're driven off from the blind poise of custom 
And see the unnerving, profound chasm 
Between ourselves and creation: we, human, 
(That singular expense of nature) lapped 

FRY: The Firstborn 151 

And perpetuated by a universe 

Of inhumanity. So, to befriend ourselves, 

We give limbs to our thoughts of the gods. I find 

It is easier believing the gods exist. 

Than believing that men do. A living body is stranger 

Than a spirit. How shall we comfort ourselves? We can 

Sound our curious notes, without expecting 

Any mating answer from any world, 

Content to be a snatch of ambiguity, 

Disturbing eternity with a kind of music. 
TEUSRET: If only my life would speak lower, or more 

Deliberately and yet still be bright, more like 

That routine of fire up there, the night's 

Commonplace of stars. 
ANATH: How they have taken 

Possession of the sky to-night. 
TEUSRET: Occasion, 

Dear Aunt. Phipa is coining, the magnitude 

Out of Syria. 

ANATH: To-morrow. 

TEUSRET: No; now they say to-night. 

Very soon, for Ramases. Messengers were here 

Half an hour ago, sweating in the cool yard. 

She's already at Hahiroth, with her romantic nature 

Plying the spurs and waking all the poor villages 

With the interminable jingle-jangle of what father calls 

Her considerable means. We shall see her 

ANATH: How do we welcome her? Nothing has been saicX 

TEUSRET: Who says anything in this palace now 

Except good morning or good night? Father 

Waits for each moment to come and touch him, and 

It has gone before he can use it. 
ANATH: Is it Phipa's 

Coming that made sleep impossible? 


TEUSRET: Will you believe me? I'm praying her here. I 
fetch her 

To Ramases, with prayers like the grip of a moon 

On the long tide of her caravan. Don't you see? 

She will bring solid and gay Syria 

Among the fiends that sway the walls here. Aunt, 

Shell bedizen nightmare until it sinks, will she not? 
ANATH: I haven't weighed the power of the blandishment 

Of diamonds. 

Enter SETT. 

TEUSRET: Who is that? 

SETT: I. Is there something 

To be seen? 

ANATH: We're watching the dark for bridles. 

TEUSRET: And the dark 

Watches us. I know you dislike me to be afraid of it. 

Are we all to meet her in the jumping shadows, 

Aunts, owls, flame, sisters and all? 

Or will she go quietly to bed and wait for to-morrow? 
SETT: To-night. She must dismount into a light 

Of welcome. Where's your brother? Turn this way; 

Are you handsome? Well, the years of my life 

Conveyed in a woman, perhaps safely. Remember to 
love me 

For everything you become, particularly 

For the worship of the male sunrise which will stand 

Over your maturity. 
VEUSRET: What is it, father? 

What is it? 
SETT: How many thousand thousand years 

Are being nursed in your body, my young daughter? 

And under a secure lock, away from the eyes 
TEUSRET: What eyes? 
SETT: The envy; confusion. Do you know 

Where to look for Ramases? 
TEUSRET: He was trying to sleep. 

What is it that is wrong? 

FRY: The Firstborn 153 

SETT. The world's constitution. 

Otherwise everything is much as we would wish it. 

Ill tell you what is wrong. The world is a wonder 

Married to some deformity; but we'll fetch them 

Apart. "Where is Ramases? 
TEUSRET: In bed. 

SETI: He can go to bed to-morrow. 
ANATH : Precious heart, 

That was a wild cry that ripped the darkness 

From somewhere down in the city. Did you hear it? 
SETI: He will have dreams in a host after to-night; 

I'm giving them to him with both my hands. Where is 

Fetch him. 

RAMASES (in the doorway) : I am here, sir. 
SETI: You're the Pharaoh. 

ANATH: Setil 
SETI: Egypt is a child again. 

Have I been as young as this? You have slept 

Into a throne and an empire, while time has begun 

To heap age over me with a bony spade 

To make me like the rest, Ramases, like 

The poor rest. 

RAMASES: Has Syria come? 

ANATH: Tell the boy 

What you mean: and me. What are you pulling down 

SETI: Myself. It seems that I have grown too tall 

And keep out the sun. I overbranch the light. 

I am giving you the throne, Ramases. 

It gives itself. The wind has hurled it under you, 

A biting wind, the hatred that has turned me 

Into storm, decay and grub in my own garden. 

You may have luckier hands. You have at least 

Hands less calloused with enemies. You will be able 

To hold the sceptre perhaps without such pain. 
ANATH: Abdication! 


RAMASES: Is that what you mean? The throne. 

Earth's ruin is to become my region. 

SETT: What? Come out of your sleep. Are you going to 

Good gold away as though it were sand in glass? 

We're in time. Aren't you myself again? Listen to me: 

This is how we distract them: under my seal 

Affixed in the morning, Moses shall be given the per- 

He has raged for: and then, with the sun somewhat 

Under my final seal you shall take Egypt. 

I drown myself in my own wave: I am not, 

But I am always. And when they come, the factions, 

The whorers and devourers, roaring over 

The rocks of the dynasty, they'll only find 

Perpetual Egypt. 
ANATH: Like a haven of sand. 

But that's for me, not for these two children. 

For them 111 believe in hope, or the hope of hope. 
SETT: Hope? What has Egypt to do with hope, 

That dwindled and dingy prayer? You long ago 

Drove yourself out of your rights, and made yourself 

Servile in some thankless kingdom of your head. 

Is my abjuration of the bright 

Wrists of the world, on which the centuries 

Are bracelets, expected to fetch us only hope? 

I am delivering Egypt up to my son. 

Shouldn't that buy off apprehension for ever? 

Do none of you understand what Tm sacrificing? 
RAMASES: Yes: whatever was prefigured in time 

To be my Me. I'm to inherit the kingdom 

Of desperate measures, to be not a self 

But a glove disguising your hand. Is theie nowhere 

Where I can come upon my own shape 

Between these overbearing ends of Egypt? 

Where am I to look for life? 
SETT: But what 

FRY: The Firstborn 155 

Am I shaking over you if not a wealth 

Of life? Do you comprehend, this land of cities 

Lying dazed with time's faithfulness 

Is yours? And the heart of beauty out of Syria. 

Teusret, watch; is there anything to be seen? 

Any sound yet? Stupidity, what would you have? 

Love is the dominant of lif e, to which all our changes 

Of key are subdued in the end. You will be able 

To wander the winding and coitous passages 

Of the heart, and be more than you could have proph- 

For yourself. 
TEUSRET: The singing in the street has stopped; 

But now, something else 

SETI: Well, what? Is it the girl? 

ANATH: Listen! 
TEUSRET: A tortured gale, a gale of crying 

Moving up through the streets! Oh no! no! 
SETI: Crying of what? 
ANATH: Has the earth found voice 

At last to bring compassion to the nail-thrusts 

Of those glaring stars? 
TEUSRET: It's the noise of breaking lives! 

Isn't it so? 
ANATH: As though the roots of faith 

Were being dragged out of the live flesh of the land. 
TEUSRET: We're together, Ramases, some way, or is no 

Ever with another? Your hand feels wise. And now 

Mine is part of it. So much for fear! 

We're locked against whatever is there in the city. 
RAMASES: Teusret, what is there may be ourselves 

Coming to find us; we have to listen to it. 
SETT: What is it now? Has evil so many rat-holes 

We can't stop them up? In the name of the soul, 

How can we caulk a world which is such a sieve 

To darkness? 
RAMASES: What is it, Darkness? 


AXATH: Oh, make the city 

Silent! Did you see that? The shape of a man 

Leaping for the terrace? 
SETI: Get back into the room! 

Back! Here is treachery's shadow in the shadow. 
RAMASES: Let it come to me, then. If I'm to have Egypt 

111 have its treachery as well. Keep 

Away from the window. Who goes there? Stand. 

Who goes there? Who is it? 

MOSES comes breathlessly on to the terrace. 
MOSES: Shut all your doors! 

Nothing will wait for us, we are at war 

With this moment, draw yourselves like swords. It is 

For Ramases: Put your lives round him. 
AXATH: My life? Who has my Me? Find it. 
RAMASES : For me? 

SETI: Have you come out of the city? What is there? 

Show your hand, even with the ace of terror. 

What is on its way to us? 
MOSES: Death, death, deliberately 

Aimed, falling on all your firstborn sons, 

All Egypt's firstborn, Seti, cattle and men; 

Death particular and infallible, mounting 

With an increasing terrible wake of cries 

To your window, to come to Ramases. I know 

It was I that loosed it. Can I deflect it now? 

Can we so rope our lives together that we 

Can be a miracle against death? 
SETI: Go back 

Into your night! I don't believe in you. 

You are a figment of the insupportable, 

Face of a lie. Go back out of belief. 
ANATH: He can't, can't, can't! He is caught with us, 

Like us, in the falling tower of time. He is true; 

And I give him my desperation to do what he may 

Will that save Ramases? 
TEUSRET: But who has condemned him? 

FRY: The Firstborn 157 

What has he done? Has he made too much love 

In the world? What guilt do you want us to clear him 

Oh we can, easily, easily! 
RAMASES: My own death 

Is near to me. I hear what you all say 

But all I can feel is that the night will be heavy, 

Awkward with goodbyes. Death, it appears, 

Tells nothing upon its beaches, has no breeze 

Explaining to the land, nor even a kiss 

Of warning salt, or frail disposal of spray 

To hint at such huge water. Can it rise 

So darkly over the sand without a sound? 

Perhaps this is its hand that seems to be passing 

Through my hair, feeling for the skull. 

An utter end of all the neighbourhood 

Of light and yet there is nothing I understand. 

Is it my action? Or an action done to me? 

And do I live by this, because of this, 

For this only? 
TEUSRET: Ramases, you're believing 

It will come! Then if it does, life is wicked, 

Life will deserve death. 
SETI: But I have changed 

The channel that evil was running in. The boy 

Is the Pharaoh. What has set humanity tolling 

Now? It has no reason to. 
MOSES : The Pharaoh? 

RAMASES: Is it too late, no use after all? 
MOSES : We'll hold you 

With our lives, if our lives will hold, and if before 

We can only pass to each other safely. In life's 

Name, what are we? Five worlds of separation? 

Or can we be five fingers to close into 

A hand, to strike this night clean away from us? 

There must be no thin place left for death 

To arrow through to him. 


ANATH: How can we be in time? 

Are we all as lost within ourselves 

As this? 
TEUSRET: Fatter, the crying-out! Quickly, quickly, 

It is so near! 
SETT: I will do anything. 

But all direction is gone. 
KAMASES : Perhaps it is 

My own deed after all. Then no one can change it. 
MOSES: All was right, except this, all, the reason, 

The purpose, the justice, except this culmination. 

God, now good has turned on itself and become 

Its own enemy. Have we to say that truth is only 

Punishment? What must we say to be free 

Of the bewildering mesh of God? 

ANATH: What do you want from us? 

MOSES: Power of life, to beat death out of this house. 
ANATH: Say what it is! Say what is my life? 

It went to be your shadow. For fifteen years 

It has been nothing but a level of darkness 

Cast on the world by you. I was the cheat 

Of my own heart, who made myself your mother 

And then loved you and desired you, until you became 

The world's bruise and ease, the blessing and torment, 

The water that kept me alive to thirst. 

Is this the power you can use against death? 
MOSES: This isn't what we must say not now! 
ANATH: What else? 

Ramases must live! At last, at last 

You need something of me. Ramases must live. 

Can the power of my unsleeping madness 

That burning beauty and insidious worm 

Of hunger can my love for you get him 

From death? If it will, let it enrich itself 

On that; but what power has it that can never know 

If you could have loved me? Merely to have known 

How little or much I strangled, how near I was 

To peace? But fear shapes and changes us 

FRY: The Firstborn 159 

And becomes our only courage, and I was afraid 

For you to know you were not my son, for then 

I should have lost even that right in you. 

And so the world has been one thing and I another, 

And the life in me has kept me out of life. 
MOSES: Anath 
ANATH: I loved you until I longed to hear 

That you were dead. 
MOSES : Wha t can we make 

Of the old circling peewit of our past 

That whimpers for the breast of the dry moon 

And keeps a querulous twilight, year and year? 

More life! The dark is already pacing us. 

Must we be agents of this deadly visit 

Of God? Give me greater life, for the boy's sake! 
RAMASES: But how should I wear life now? It has be- 

Something too large to put on. If I'm to live 

Shall I know how? 
SETI: Yes, ask, son of myself, 

Ask that! There's life in questions. But pray 

With your soul that you receive no answers. 

My branch, my Ramases, on to your knees. 

Truth will be the finish, the disaster. 

Our power and progress is our being free 

Of truth. Do you think I haven't known 

That it's the immortal lying of our spirits 

Gives the unpromising earth the look of excellence? 

Am I to deride myself away 

Into what I am, futility? 

Sufficient illusion is sufficient life. 

No one will persuade me 

That I must break my heart with truth. 
HAMASES: And in your prime of illusion I was begotten. 

It's fair enough I should be dispelled. Gods, 

I'm tired of thinking. If it were here and quick 

I should stop trembling. 
MOSES: Has none of us the life 


To keep him living? Pain of man, iron 

Of nature without record, sacrifice, faith, 

Storm-riding souls and rearing spirit, 

Are we the way through, letting in destruction? 

Affirm and succeed into my strength to lock me 

Equally with this wrestler rising out of midnight. 
TEUSRET: Look, look the torches in the gateway. 

She is here! We shall be alive again. 

Phipa has come to us, and the shawms have begun 

To wind their welcome in the towers. Come on, 

Ramases, come to meet her. 
SETT: Anath, all of you, 

We meet her as though Egypt were in high health, 

No anxiety in your faces as of ambassadors 

Of a haunted country. Is it the main body 

Or only the advance riders? 
TEUSRET: Ramases, 

Are we going? The dark's not dangerous now. 
RAMASES: But still dark. And we have to enact a daylight 

For this unsuspecting beauty. How easy is that? 

Well, for the stairs, then. We'll meet her. 

Don't go, don't look! Moses, it is now 

That you must break in on to your powers. 

Now, now! What strength have you? I saw 
MOSES: I am nothing! 
ANATH: There were men, opening the gates, 

Who fell and still are lying there, and an owl 

In mid-air wrenched itself upward screaming and 

Down on to the yard there's another! Oh, 

The bat that flew by me now, has dropped from 

Are these the flowers we throw to a bride? Of the birds 

The shouts and neighing wakened, many are falling 

Dead; one has struck a torch from a man's 

Hand. It is here! 

FRY: The Firstborn 161 

MOSES: The shadows are too many. 

Where is my hand to go to? Ramases, 

There's no more of me than this* This is all. 

I followed a light into a blindness. 
TEUSRET: Come away, Ramases, Ramases 

Come now, now. You must meet her and love her. 

Isn't it in love that life is strongest? 

I want you to love her. Already we're late. 
RAMASES: Why is she sighing, Teusret? Such great sighs. 

They have taken all the air. Now there will be 

Nowhere to breath. Come with me. (He crumples and 

TEUSRET: Ramases! 

I don't know the way! 

RAMASES: I am finding it for you. 

MOSES: Ramases, can you forget Life 

So quickly? This is my hand, a living hand; 

Do you remember? Still be as this hand is, 

Like this and this. 
RAMASES: Stoop, Teusret. You see? 

You cannot lose me* Here I am. (He dies.) 
TEUSRET: Oh, help me to take him to her, make him see 

Ramases, we're to go to the stairs. Listen, 

That shouting is in Syrian. How can he hear, 

With his head so? I had a secret to bring you 

When you marry. Ramases! Ill meet her alone, then. 

Coming in shell reach you must, must. 

She came so far. (She runs to the courtyard.) 
MOSES: This is how it is 

To make time your friend. The earth has come and 

For him the earth has gone. But for us it still 

Hangs in the air, like a smell of burning 

Which must be searched for, so slight, but we cannot 

Until, like this, we have put it out. 


SETI: What's that movement? The light touching his ring. 

Is that all the life you have for me now? 

Light, there are his eyes. Go to them again. 

Why will you waste on a stone? A stone. Stone. 
ANATH: Is death the last illusion, Ramases, 

Pharaoh of sleep? O darling hope, 

You have become my promise. Keep it, unbroken. 

You have the one possession of the world. 
MOSES: An end? Why should he die again in us? 

Live in us, Ramases, in what years we can have for you. 
SETI (turning on MOSES): You have done what you re- 
turned for. You came in the morning. 

Leave us with what remains of the night. 

No man in Egypt will prevent you. The day 

You found us in is over. 
ANATH: You have the freedom of the darkness, Moses. 

Why do you wait? Haven't you recognized 

The triumph of your purpose? Your twelve hundred 

Thousand souls, out there in the dungeon of the night, 

Are waiting to hear the long bolts grate back. 

Ramases has died, and the air stands 

Ready in the wilderness to take you in. 

Ramases has died. To-morrow the lizards 

Will be sparkling on the rocks. Why aren't you dancing 

With such liberty for such starving souls? 
MOSES: I do not know why the necessity of God 

Should feed on grief; but it seems so. And to know it 

Is not to grieve less, but to see grief grow big 

With what has died, and in some spirit differently 

Bear it back to life. The blame could impale me 

For ever; I could be so sick of heart 

That who asked for my life should have it; I could 

Creation to be no more than a weight of stone 

Quarried for the chisel of doom; or I could see 

Man's lif e go forward only by guilt and guilt. 

Then we should always watch Ramases dying, 

Whereas he had such life his death can only 

FRY: The Firstborn 163 

Take him for a moment, to undo his mortality, 

And he is here pursuing the ends of the world. 

There is a wilderness between my blood and peace. 

But what does eternity bear witness to 

If not at last to hope? Eternal failure 

Would make creation void before the void 

Had seen creation. Anath Egypt 

Why should it have been I that had to be 

Disaster to you? Now, always unknown 

To each other, we must force the arduous, damnable 

Pass of time. Farewell. 
AJsTATH: You were wrong, wrong! 

You will have nothing now except the wilderness. 

It's all your future and your old age. Oh, take 

Your shadow off me. I shall remember only 

What I have loved and make to-morrow of that. 
MOSES: Somehow the pulse of living mustn't falter. 

Is that enough to carry into the wilderness? 

We must each find our separate meaning 

In the persuasion of our days 

Before we meet in the meaning of the world. 

Until that time. 

He goes. Re-enter TEUSRET. 
TEUSRET: I have seen her. How can she be 

Too late? Is beauty not a wand? Then 

We shall live again. Oh Ramases, 

I'm Teusret. Are you so taken with the dark 

That what has dazzled me won't open your eyes? 

I have whispered into your sleep at other times 

And you've heard me. Ramases, 

She has come so gifted for you, possessing 

A fable of rubies, and pearls like seeds of the moon, 

With metal and strange horns, ebon and ivory, 

Spilling chalcedonyx and male sapphires. 

Doesn't their brightness come to you? Do they glimmer 

Nowhere into the cupboards of your sleep? 
SETT: She need bring nothing, except the hour that has 


MOSES: Death and life are moving to a call. 

I turn from Egypt 
ANATEC: What is left 

To call to me? 
MOSES: The morning, which still comes 

To Egypt as to Israel, the round of light 

Which will not wheel in vain. 

We must each find our separate meaning 

In the persuasion of our days 

Until we meet in the meaning of the world. 

Until that time. 

He goes. The early light reaches RAMASES. 



A Play 

Copyright reserved. Reprinted by permission of Curtis 
Brown, Ltd. 


DAVID, son of Jesse. 
SAUL, King of Israel. 
SAMUEL, Prophet of God. 

JONATHAN, SOn of Saul. 

ABNER, leader of Saul's host. 
AGAG, King of Amalek. 

MEBAB, daughter of Saul. 
MICHAL, daughter of Saul. 



JESSE, father of David. 

ELIAB, ABINADAB, SHAMMAH, brothers of David. 



SCENE i: Courtyard of SAUL'S house in Gilgal: sort of com- 
pound with an adobe house beyond. AGAG, bound, seated 
on the ground, and fastened by a rope to a post of the 
shed. Men with spears. Enter MERAB and MICHAL, daugh- 
ters of SAUL, with tambourines. MAIDENS. 

MERAB (running and dancing) : Saul came home with the 

spoil of the Amaleldte. 
MAIDENS: Hie! Amalekite! Hie! Amalekite! 
MICHAL: Saul threw his spear into the desert of Shur, 

through the heart of the Amalekite. 

MAIDENS: Stuck the Amalekite, pierced him to the ground. 
MICHAL: Wind of the desert blows between the ribs of 

Amalek, only the jackal is fat on that land. Who smote 

the Amalekite, as a sand-storm smites the desert? 
MAIDENS: Saul! Saul! Saul is the slayer and the death of 

MERAB (before AGAG): What is this dog with a string 

round his neck? 
MAIDENS: What dog is this? 

MICHAL: I know this dog, men used to call it King! 
MAIDENS: Look at this King! 
MERAB: Agag, Agag, King of the Amalekites! Dog on a 

string at the heel of mighty Saul! 
MICHAL (speaking to AGAG) : Are you the King of the 


AGAG: I am he, maiden! 
MICHAL: I thought it was a dog my father had brought 

home, and tied to a post. 
MERAB: Why are you alone, Agag? Where are all your 

armed men, that ran like lions round the road to Egypt? 

Where are your women, with gold on their foreheads? 

Let us hear the tinkle of the bracelets of your women, 

O King, King Agag, King of mighty Amalekl 



MAIDENS (laughing shaking tambourines in AGAG'S face 
spitting on him) : Dog! Dog! Dog of an Amaleldte! 

MICHAL: Who hung on the heels of Israel when they jour- 
neyed out of the wilderness of Shur, coming from Egypt, 
in the days of our fathers, in the day of Moses our great 

MAIDENS: Ay! Ay! Who threw their spears in the backs of 
the wandering Israelites? 

MICHAL: Who killed our women, and the weary ones, and 
the heavy-footed, in the bitter days of wandering, when 
we came up out of Egypt? 

MERAB: Who among our enemies was accursed like the 
Amaleldte? When Moses held the rod of God uplifted 
in his hand, Joshua smote the Amalekite till the sun 
went down. But even when the sun was gone, came the 
voice of the Almighty: War, and war with Amalek, till 
Amalek is put out from under heaven. 

MICHAL: Dog! Son of dogs that lay in wait for us as we 
passed by! Dog! Why has Saul left you eyes to see, and 
ears to hear! 

SAUL (coming from house): Agag is among the maidens! 

MICHAL: See, Father, is this a king? 

SAUL: Even so. 

MICHAL: It is a dog that cannot scratch his own fleas. 

SAUL: Even so, it is a king: King of rich Amalek. Have you 
seen the presents he has brought for the household of 

MICHAL: For the daughters of Saul, Father? 

SAUL: Surely for Merab and Michal, daughters of Saul. 
(To a man.) Ho! Bring the basket of spoils for the 
daughters of the King. 

MICHAL: Listen! Listen! King Agag seeks a wife in Gilgal! 
Oh, Father, I do not like him! He looks like a crow the 
dogs have played with. Merab, here is a King for your 

MERAB: Death is his portion, the Amalekite. 

MICHAL: Will you put him to death, Father? Let us laugh 
a little longer at his Amalek nose. 

LAWRENCE: David 169 

Enter man with basket also JONATHAN and ABNER. 

SAUL: See the gifts of Agag, King of Amalek, to the 
daughters of Saul! Tissue from Egypt, head-veils from 
Pharaoh's house! And see, red robes from Tyre, and 
yellow from Sidon. 

MICHAL (screams) : That for me, Father, that for me! Give 
the other to Merab. Ah! Ah! Ah! Thank you, King 
Agag; thank you, King of Amalek. 

SAUL: Goldsmith's work for arms and ankles, gold and 
dropping silver, for the ears. 

MICHAL: Give me those! Give me those! Give the others 
to Merab! Ay! Ay! Maidens! How am I? See, Agag, 
noble Agag, how am I now? Listen! (She dances, the 
ornaments clink.) They say: Noble Agag! King of 
Givers! Poor draggled crow that had gold in its nest! 
Caw! King Agag! Caw! It's a daughter of Saul, of long- 
limbed Saul, smiter of Amalek, who tinkles with joys of 
the Amalekite. 

JONATHAN: Peace, maiden! Go in and spin wool with the 
women. You are too much among the men. 

MICHAL: Art thou speaking, O Jonathan, full of thy own 

JONATHAN: Take in these spoils from the eye of men, and 
the light of day. Father, there came one saying that 
Samuel sought you in Carmel. 

SAUL: Let "him find me in Gilgal. 

ABNER: They are calling even now at the gate. 
Moves to gate. 

SAUL (to girls) : Go to the house and hide your spoil, for 
if this prophet of prophets finds the treasure of the 
Amalekite upon you, he will tear it away, and curse 
your youth. 

MICHAL: That he shall not! Oh, Merab, you got the blue 
shawl from me! Run! Maidens! Run! Farewell, King 
Agag, your servant thanks your lordship! Caw! Nay, 
he cannot even say caw! 

Exit running MICHAL, and other MAIDENS follow. 


ABNER: It is so, my lord. Samuel even now has passed the 
stone of directions, seeking Saul in Gilgal. 

SAUL: It is well. He has come to bless our triumph. 

JONATHAN: Father, will you leave that man in the sight of 

SAUL: No! Go you quickly into the house, O Agag! Take 
him quickly, men, and let no mouth speak his name. 
Exeunt AGAG and men. 

JONATHAN: I have a misgiving, Father, that Samuel comes 
not in peace, after Saul in Gilgal. 

SAUL: Has Saul laid low the Amalekite, to fear the coming 
of an old prophet? 

ABNER: Samuel is a jealous man, full of the tyranny of 
prophecy. Shall we wait him here, or go into the house 
and be seated on the mats? Or shall we go forth from 
the gate towards him? 

SAUL: I will stay here, and brighten my sword-edge in the 

ABNER (at the gate calling): He is coming across the 
field; an old man in a mantle, alone, followed by two 
of his prophets. 

JONATHAN (joining ABNER) : It is he. And coming in anger. 

ABNER: In anger against whom? 

JONATHAN: Against my father. Because we have not de- 
stroyed the Amalekite utterly, but have saved the best 

ABNER: Nay, but it is a foolish thing, to throw fine linen 
into the fire, and fat young oxen down a dry well. 

JONATHAN: It was the commandment. 

ABNER: Why should the maidens not rejoice in their orna- 
ments, and the God of the Unknown Name enjoy the 
scent of blood-sacrifice? 

They retreat from the gate; SAUL sharpens his 
sword. After a pause, enter SAMUEL, followed by 
the prophets. 

SAUL (laying down his sword) : Blessed be thou of the 
Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord. 

LAWRENCE: David 171 

SAMUEL: What meaneth the bleating of the sheep in my 
ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear? 

SAUL: They have brought them from the Amalekites. The 
people spared the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, 
to sacrifice unto thy God, but the rest we have utterly 

SAMUEL: Stay, and I will tell thee what I have heard out 
of the inner darkness, this night. 

SAUL: Say on. 

SAMUEL: When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast 
thou not made the chieftain of the tribes of Israel, and 
the Deep poured his power over thee, to anoint thee 
King? And the Voice out of the deeps sent thee on a 
journey, saying: Go, and utterly destroy the sinners the 
Amalekites, and fight against them until they be con- 
sumed. Why then did you not obey the Voice, instead 
of flying upon the spoil, and doing evil in the sight of 
the Unclosing Eyes? 

SAUL: Yea, I have obeyed the Voice from the beyond. I 
have gone the way which the Great One sent me, and 
have brought Agag the King of Amalek prisoner, and 
have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people 
took the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things 
which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice 
in Gilgal unto the Lord thy God. 

SAMUEL: Does the Breather of the skies take as great 
delight in sacrifice and burnt offerings as in obedience 
to the Voice that spoke on the breath of the night? 
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken 
than the fat of rams. 

SAUL: Is not God the sender of Me, and the bread of life? 
And shall we deny the meat and destroy the bread that 
is sent? 

SAMUEL: Behold, is the Lord my God a sutler, to stock the 
larders of Saul? Lo, He heeds not the fat beef nor the 
fine raiment, but threshes out His anger in the firma- 
ment. Amalek has defied the living Breath, and cried 


mockery on the Voice of the Beyond. Therefore the 
living Wrath will wipe out the Amalekite, by the hand 
of His servant, Israel. And if the Nameless is without 
compunction, whence the compunction of Saul? 

SAUL: I feared the people, and obeyed their voice. 

SAMUEL: Yea, that was bravely done! Thou didst not fear 
the Great Lord, thou fearest the people, smaller than 
thyself. Thou didst not obey the Cry from the midst of 
the dark, but the voice of the people! I tell thee, rebel- 
lion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as 
iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the 
word of the Lord, the Lord hath also rejected thee from 
being King. 

SAUL: Shall a King not hearken to the voice of his people? 

SAMUEL: The people cried for a King, in the frowardness 
of their hearts. But can they make a King out of one of 
themselves? Can they whistle a lion forth from a litter 
of dogs? The people cried for a King, and the Lord gave 
to them. Even thee, Saul. But why art thou King! 
Because of the voice of the people? 

SAUL: Thou didst choose me out. 

SAMUEL: The finger of the Thunder pointed me to thee, 
and the Wind of Strength blew me in thy way. And 
thou art King because from out of the middle world the 
great Wish settled upon thee. And thou art King be- 
cause the Lord poured the oil of His might over thee. 
But thou art disobedient, and shuttest thine ears to the 
Voice, Thou hearest the barkings of dogs and the crying 
of the people, and the Voice of the Midmost is nothing 
to thee. Therefore thou hast become as nothing unto the 
Lord, and He that chose thee rejecteth thee again. The 
power of the Lord shall fall away from thee, and thou 
shalt become again a common man, and a little thing, 
as when the Lord first found thee. 

SAUL: I have sinned. For I have transgressed the com- 
mandments of the Lord, which thou didst hear out of 
the deeps of the night. Because I feared the people, 
and obeyed their voice. But now, I pray thee, pardon 

LAWKENCE: David 173 

my sin, and turn again with me, that I may find the 
Lord, to worship Him. 

SAMUEL: I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected 
the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee 
from being King over Israel. (Samuel turns away. SAUL 
catches hold of the hem of SAMUEL'S garment and it 
tears in his hand.) The Lord hath rent the Kingdom of 
Israel away from thee this day, and hath given it to a 
neighbour of thine, that is better than thou (pause); 
and the Mighty One that moveth Israel will not lie, nor 
repent towards thee again: for He is not a man that He 
should repent. 

SAUL: I have sinned, I have sinned, I have turned my face 
the wrong way. Yet honour me now, I pray thee! Honour 
me before the elders of my people, and before Israel, 
and turn again with me, that I may find the Lord thy 
God, and worship Him. 

SAMUEL (turning) : Thou hast turned away from the Hid- 
den Sun, and the gleam is dying from out of thy face. 
Thou hast disowned the Power that made thee, and the 
glow is leaving thy limbs, the glisten of oil is waning on 
thy brow, and the vision is dying in thy breast. Yet be- 
cause thou. art the Lord's anointed I will bless thee again 
in the sight of the elders. Yet if the Lord hath decided 
against thee, what avails an old man's blessing? 

SAUL: Yet bless me, my Father. 

SAMUEL (lifting his hand): The Lord be with thee! The 
Lord's strength strengthen thee! The power and the 
might of the Lord brighten thine eyes and light thy 
face: the Lord's life lift thy limbs and gladden the walls 
of thy breast, and put power in thy belly and thy hips! 
The Lord's haste strengthen thy knees and quicken thy 

SAUL (lifting both hands to heaven): Lo, I have sinned, 
and lost myself, I have been mine own undoing. But I 
turn again to Innermost, where the flame is, and the 
wings are throbbing. Hear me, take me back! Brush me 
again with the wings of Me, breathe on me with the 


breath of Thy desire, come in unto me, and be with me, 
and dwell in me. For without the presence of the awful 
Lord, I am an empty shell. Turn to me, and fill my 
heart, and forgive my transgression. For I will wash 
myself clean of Amalek, to the last speck, and remove 
the source of my sinning (drops his hands turns to 
SAMUEL) . Is it well, O Samuel! 

SAMUEL: May it be well! Bring me hither Agag, King of 
the Amalekites. 

SAUL: Ho, Jonathan, send here Agag the Amalekite. And 
send thou the chief of the herdsmen, O Abner, for we 
must wipe away the stain of Amalek swiftly, out of 


SAUL (to SAMUEL) : The Lord shall be with me again this 
day, that the Kingdom be not rent from me. 

SAMUEL: Who knoweth the ways of the Deep? I will 
entreat, ah! for thee in the night-time, and in the day. 
But if He hath turned His face away, what am I but 
an old man crying like an infant in the night! 
Enter AGAG coming forward delicately. 

AGAG: Surely the bitterness of death is past. 

SAMUEL (seizing SAUL'S sword) : As thy sword hath made 
women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among 
women. Rushes on AGAG with sword AGAG steps behind 
a wall, SAMUEL upon him. 

JONATHAN: Better it had been in battle, on the field of 
the fight. 

ABNER: It is a sacrifice. 

SAUL (to HERDSMAN): Gather together the cattle of the 
Amalekite which came as spoil, and fasten them in a 
pen. Leave out no sheep and no calf, nor any goat, but 
put them all in. 

HERDSMAN: It shall be as Saul says. 

SAMUEL (entering with red sword) : I have hewed him in 
pieces before the Lord, and his blood has gone up to the 

LAWBENCE: David 175 

Most High; it is in the nostrils of the God of Wrath. 
SAUL: Come now, I pray thee, within the house, and let 

them bring water for thy feet and food to gladden thine 

SAMUEL: It may not be. But I must go to Ramah to entreat 

for thee before the Lord, and even now must I go. And 

may the Might be with thee. 


SCENE n: A room in Ramah. Night, SAMUEL in prayer. 

SAMUEL: Speak to me out of the whirlwind, come to me 
from behind the sun, listen to me where the winds are 
hastening. When the power of the whirlwind moves 
away from me, I am a worthless old man. Out of the 
deep of deeps comes a breath upon me, and my old 
flesh freshens like a flower. I know no age. Oh, upon 
the wings of distance turn to me, send the fanning 
strength into my hips. I am sore for Saul, and my old 
bones are weary for the King. My heart is like a 
fledgling in a nest, abandoned by its mother. My heart 
opens its mouth with vain cries, weak and meaningless, 
and the Mover of the deeps will not stoop to me. My 
bowels are twisted in a knot of grief, in a knot of 
anguish for my son, for him whom I anointed beneath 
the firmament of might. On earth move men and beasts, 
they nourish themselves and know not how they are 
alive. But in all the places moves Unseen Almighty, like 
a breath among the stars, or the moon, like the sea turn- 
ing herself over. I eat bread, but my soul faints, and 
wine will not heal my bones. Nothing is good for me 
but God. Like waters He moves through the world, like 
a fish I swim in the flood of God Himself. Answer me, 


Mover of the waters, speak to me as waves speak with- 
out mouths. Saul has fallen off, as a ripe fig falls and 
bursts. He, anointed, he moved in the flood of power, 
he was God's, he was not his own. Now he is cast up 
like a fish among the dry stones, he beats himself against 
the sun-licked pebbles. He jumped out from the deeps 
of the Lord, the sea of God has seen him depart. He 
will die within the smell of his own violence. Lord, Lord, 
Ocean and Mover of oceans, lick him into the flood 
of Thyself. Wilt Thou not reach for him with the arm 
of a long wave, and catch him back into the deeps of 
living God? Is he lost from the sway of the tide for ever 
and for ever? When the rain wets him, will it wet him 
Godless, and will the wind blow on him without God in 
it? Lord, wilt Thou not reach for him, he is Thine 
anointed? Bitter are the waters of old age, and tears fall 
inward on the heart. Saul is the son whom I anointed, 
and Saul has crawled away from God, he creeps up the 
rocks in vanity, the stink of him will rise up like a dead 
crab. Lord, is it verily so with Saul, is he gone out from 
Thee for ever, like a creeping thing crawled in vanity 
from the element of elements? I am old, and my tears 
run inward, they deaden my heart because of Saul. For 
Saul has crawled away from the Fountain of Days, and 
the Ancient of Days will know him no more. I hear the 
voice of the Lord like waters washing through the night, 
saying: Saul has fallen away and is no more in the way 
of the power of God. Yea, what is love, that I should 
love him! He is fallen away, and stinketh like a dead 
crab, and my love stinks with him. I must wash myself 
because of Saul, and strip myself of him again, and go 
down into the deeps of God. Speak, Lord, and I will 
obey. Tell me, and I will do it. I sink like a stone in 
the sea, and nothing of my own is left me. I am gone 
away from myself, I disappear in the deeps of God. And 
the orach of the Lord stirs me, as the fountains of the 
deep. Lo! I am not mine own. The flood has covered me 
and the waters of the beginning sound in the shell of my 

LAWRENCE: David 177 

heart. And I will find another King for Israel, I shall 
know him by the whispers of my heart. Lo, I will fill 
the horn with oil again, with the oil from the body of 
Him, and I will go into the hills of Judah. I will find 
out one, in whom the power sleeps. And I will pour 
potency over his head and anoint him with God's fecun- 
dity, and place him beyond forgetting. I will go into the 
hills of Judah, where the sheep feed among the rocks, 
and find a man fresh in the morning of God. And he 
shall be King. On the morrow I will gather myself and 
go, silently, carrying the kingship away from Saul, be- 
cause the virtue is gone out of him. And Saul will kill 
me with a spear, in one stroke, for rage he will kill 
me, if I tell him. But I shall not tell him. I shall say: 
I must away to the land of Judah, it is the time to 
sacrifice in the place of Bethlehem, the appointed time 
is at hand. So I shall go away from Saul for ever, and 
never shall I see his face again. I shall hide myself away 
from his face, lest he hurt himself, skying me. I shall 
go in the morning with sure feet, but the shell of my 
heart will be weary. For I am the Lord's and the servant 
of the Lord, and I go in obedience, even with the alacrity 
of willingness. But alas, that I should have loved Saul, 
and had pride in him! I am old. 


SCENE in: Bethlehem: an open place in the village. An old 
man on a roof calling aloud and kindling a signal fire. 

IST ELDER (calling, on the roof) : Come in! Come in! Come 
in! Come all men in! Come all in to the place of counsel! 
Gather into the pkce of counsel, all men gather now. 
Come in! Come in! 


2ND ELDER (on the plaza] : What now? 

3RD ELDER: The watchman on the fourth hill saw a host of 
prophets coming, even Samuel among them. 

2ND ELDER: Yea! What does this bode? 

JESSE: What have we done wrong, that Samuel comes 
down upon us? If he curses us we are dead men. 

4TH ELDER: Dread is on me. The sun looks darkened. 

3RD ELDER: Nay, let us wait. It may be he comes in peace. 

ELIAB (brother of DAVID) : Why do we, who are men that 
fear not the lion nor the bear, nor even the Philistine, 
tremble before the raging of these prophets? 

2ND ELDER: Hush then! For the Bolt is above us, and can 
strike out of a clear sky. Canst thou hear His meaning, 
or know His vision, Who is secret save to the prophets? 
Peace then, hush thy mouth. 

JESSE: Verily, there is no open vision, and the word of 
One is precious. Without Samuel, we should stare with 
the stare of deaf men, and the fixed eyes of the blind. 
We should run our faces against the wall, and fall with 
our feet into a hole. We should not hear the lion roaring 
upon us. 

ELIAB: Not so, my Father. Without a prophet I seek the 
lion when he roars about the herd, I slay him without 
advice from the Lord. We live our lives as men, by the 
strength of our right hand. Why heed the howlings of 
priests in linen ephods, one or many! 

JESSE: My son, shut thy teeth on such words. Seal thy 
heart to silence. The strength of a man lasts for a little 
time, and wastes like the oil in a lamp. You are young, 
and your lamp is unbroken. But those that live long 
needs must renew their strength again, and have their 
vessel replenished. And only from the middle-middle of 
all the worlds, where God stirs amid His waters, can 
strength come to us. 

ELIAB: Will it not come without Samuel? 

JESSE: There is a path that the gazelle cannot follow, and 
the lion knows not, nor can the eagle fly it. Rare is the 
soul of the prophet, that can find the hidden path of the 

LAWRENCE: David 179 

Lord. There is no open vision, and we, who can see the 
lion in the thicket, cannot see the Lord in the darkness, 
nor hear Him out of the cloud. But the word of One is 
precious, and we perish without it. 

ELIAB: I cannot bow my heart to Samuel. Is he a King to 
lead us into battle, and share the spoil with us? Why 
should we fare worse without him? 

JESSE: My son, day follows day, and night travels between 
the days. But the heart of man cannot wander among 
the years like a wild ass in the wilderness, running 
hither and thither. The heart at last stands still, crying: 
Whither? Whither? Like a lost foal whinnying for his 
dam, the heart cries and nickers for God, and will not 
be comforted. Then comes the prophet with the other 
vision in his eyes, and the inner hearing in his ears, and 
he uncovers the secret path of the Lord, Who is at the 
middlemost pkce of all. And when the heart is in the 
way of God, it runs softly and joyously, without weari- 

ELIAB: I would sooner follow the King, with spear and 

JESSE: Samuel is more precious than the King, and more 
to be obeyed. As God is to Samuel, Samuel to the King 
is God. The King is as a boy awaiting his father's bid- 
ding, uneasy till he is told what he shall do. Even so 
Samuel speaks to Saul, with the mouth of authority, to 
be obeyed. For he is the lips of God. 

ELIAB: For me, give me the right arm of Saul. 

SAMUEL enters followed by wild prophets. The 
ELDERS go to meet him. 

IST ELDER: The Lord be with thee! 

SAMUEL: The Lord keep this people! 

IST ELDER: Comest thou in peace? 

SAMUEL: In peace. I come to sacrifice unto the Lord. Sanc- 
tify yourselves and come to sacrifice, according to your 
families. Renew your clothes and purify yourselves. 

IST ELDER: Into which house will you go? 

SAMUEL: Into the house of Jesse. 


JESSE: I am here, my lord. 

SAMUEL: Call your household together, and sanctify your- 
selves, for we \vill sacrifice a heifer to the Lord this day, 
in your house. And it shall be a feast unto you. 


SCENE iv: JESSE'S house. A small inner courtyard: a rude 
altar smoking, and blood sprinkled round: SAMUEL before 
the attar, hands bloody. In another part a large red -fire 
with a great pot seething, and pieces of meat roasting on 
spits. JESSE turning the spits. It is evening, sun going down. 

SAMUEL: Call your sons. Call them one hy one to pass 
before me. For I will look on them, before we sit around 
to the feast of the sacrifice. 

JESSE: They are in the house, waiting. I will call the first- 
born first. (Calling.) Eliab, come forth! Samuel asks for 

ELIAB (entering) : The Lord be with you. 

SAMUEL (aside) : Surely the Lord's anointed is before Him! 
(Gazes at ELIAB who is big and handsome.} 

SAMUEL (aside) : I shall not look on his countenance, nor 
on the height of his stature. For the voice of my soul 
tells me he is rejected. The Lord sees not as men see. 
For man looketh on the outward appearance, but the 
Lord looketh on the heart. 

SAMUEL (to JESSE): Him hath the Lord not chosen. Call 
thy other son. 

JESSE: Ha! AbinadabI And Eliab, gather all thy brothers 
together, for the feast shall be set forth. 
Exit ELIAB. 

ABINADAB (entering) : The Lord be with you. 

LAWRENCE: David 181 

SAMUEL (gazing on ABINADAB) : Neither hath the Lord 

chosen this. 
JESSE: Go thou, Abinadab! Be all thy brethren ready in 

the house? 
ABINADAB: They be all there, waiting for the sacrifice 

JESSE (catting) : Come, Shammah! And when I call, come 

you others in your order, one by one. 
SHAMMAH (entering) : The Lord be with you. 
SAMUEL (slowly) : Neither hath the Lord chosen this. 
JESSE: Go thou! Nay! Rather go to the fire and turn the 

spitted meat. 

SHAMMAH: Yea! For it should not singe. 
JESSE (calling) : Ho! Son! Come forward! 
FOURTH SON: The Lord be with you! 
SAMUEL: Neither hath the Lord chosen this. 
JESSE: Go thou hence, and wait yet a while. 
FOURTH SON: What wouldst thou then with me? 
JESSE (calling): Ho! Son! (To him who waits.) Nay, go 

or stay, as thou wilt. But stand aside. (He stands aside.) 
FIFTH SON: The Lord be with you. 
JESSE: Turn thy face to the sun, that it may be seen. 
SAMUEL: Neither hath the Lord chosen this. 
JESSE: Thou art not he, whom Samuel seeks. Stand thou 

aside. (Calling.) Ho! Son! (To him who waits.) Bring 

in thy brother. 

Enter SIXTH SON: all the other brothers edge in 
after him. 

SIXTH SON: The Lord be with you! 
SAMUEL: Neither hath the Lord chosen this. 
SIXTH SON: Wherefore hast thou called me, my Father? 
JESSE: Samuel would look on the faces of all my sons. Go 

now! Who then was not called? Who among you has not 

come forward? 

SEVENTH SON: I! Wilt thou me? 
JESSE: Nay, but come into the light before the prophet of 

SAMUEL: Neither hath the Lord chosen this. 


JESSE: Nay, then it is finished, for there be no more. 

SAMUEL: Are here all thy children? 

JESSE: Yea, verily, there remaineth yet the youngest. And 
behold, he keepeth the sheep. 

SAMUEL: Send and fetch him. For we will not sit down 
till he come hither. 

JESSE: Go thou, Shammah, for he will be coming in now. 

I will see ! 

Exit JESSE, also SHAMMAH. 

ELIAB: My lord, will the Lord of Hosts anoint a King, 
while Saul yet liveth? 

SAMUEL: My son, out of the deep cloud the lightning 
cometh, and toucheth its own. Even so, from the whirl- 
wind of the whole world's middle, leaneth out the Won- 
derful and toucheth His own, but whether the anointing 
be for prophecy or priesthood, or for a leader or a King 
over Israel, the Mover of all hath it in His own deeps. 

ELIAB: Yea! But if the Lord anoint a man to be King, can 
the Lord again take back the anointing, and wipe out 
the oil, and remove the gift, and undo the man He has 

SAMUEL: The power is beyond us, both before and after. 
Am I not anointed before the people? But if I should 
say: The power is my own; I will even do my own bid- 
ding, then this is the sin of witchcraft, which stealeth 
the power of the whirlwind for its own. And the power 
will be taken from me, and I shall fall into a pit. 

-ELIAB: It is a hard thing, to be the Lord's anointed. 
/ SAMUEL: For the froward and irreverent spirit, it is a thing 
well-nigh impossible. 

Enter JESSE with DAVID. 

JESSE: This is David, the last of the sons of Jesse. 

SAMUEL (aside) : I shall arise and anoint him. For this is 
he. (Aloud.) The Lord hath chosen this one. (Takes 
.the horn of oil and holds it over DAVID'S head.) The 
.skies will anoint thee with their glory, the oil of the Sun 

LAWRENCE: David 183 

is poured over thee, and the strength, of His power. 
Thou shalt be a master of the happenings among men. 
Answer then. Does thy soul go forth to the Deep, does 
the Wonderer move in thy soul? 

DAVID: Yea, my lord. Surely my soul leaps with God! 

SAMUEL (anointing DAVID) : The Glory pours Himself out 
on thee. The Chooser chooseth thee. Thou shalt be no 
more thine own, for the chosen belongs to the Chooser. 
When thou goeth in, it shall be at the whisper of the 
Mover, and when thou comest out, it shall be the Lord. 
Thy strength is at the heart of the world, and thy desires 
are from thence. The walls of thy breast are the front 
of the Lord, thy loins are the Deep's, and the fire within 
them is His. The Lord looketh out of thy eyes and sits 
on thy lips. Thou closest thy fist on the Deep, and thy 
knees smile with His strength. He holdeth the bow of 
thy body erect, and thy thighs are the pillars of His 
presence. Henceforward thou art not thine own. The 
Lord is upon thee, and thou art His. 

DAVID (making an obeisance) : I am thy servant, my lord. 

SAMUEL: Ye shall sit around, and divide the meat, and eat 
of the feast, and bid the neighbours to your feast of 
sacrifice this night. 

They move around, fetching trenchers of wood, 
and a huge dish, and a heap of flat bread. They 
begin to take the meat from the fire, and with a 
cry lift down the pot. 

JESSE: David is a child, and the Lord hath chosen him. 
What shall become of him? Make it plain to us, O 
Samuel, this night! 

SAMUEL: Ask not, for none knoweth. Let him live till such 
time as the Unseen stretcheth out His hands upon him. 
When the time is fulfilled, then we shall know. Before- 
hand no man knoweth. And now the meat is ready from 
the fire, and the feast of sacrifice is prepared, and I have 
done. Eat you of the feast, and live before the Lord, and 
be blessed. Speak nothing of this hour, lest mischance 


befall you. I go my way. Do not seek to stay me. Call 

whom ye will to meat, eat then what is before you, for 

this is your hour. 
JESSE: The sun has gone down, and it is night Wilt thou 

verily go forth? 

ELIAB: He has anointed the youngest, and the oldest he 

has passed over. 

JESSE: It is the Lord. Go, Abinadab, and bid in the neigh- 
bours to the feast. 
ELIAB: Nay, it is Samuel, who envies a strong man his 

strength, and settles on the weak. 
JESSE: These things, at this hour, thou shalt not say. Is 

my son David chosen beneath the heavens, and shall 

EUab his brother cast it up a reproach to him? Yea! 

pile up the dish from the pot, that it may cool, and not 

bum the hand of him that tasteth. 

ELIAB (to DAVID) : Wilt thou be a priest in a blue ephod? 
DAVID: I know not. To-day and to-morrow I shall keep my 

father's sheep. More I know not. 
ELIAB: Canst thou see the Bolt within the cloud? Canst 

thou hear His voice out of the ground? 
DAVID: I know not. I wish the Lord be with me. 
ELIAB: Is He nearer thee, than thine own father? 
DAVID: My father sits before me and I see his face. But 

the Lord is in my limbs as a wind in a tree, and the 

tree is shaken. 
ELIAB: Is not the Lord also in me, thou stripling? Is thine 

the only body that is visited? 
DAVID: I know not. My own heart I know. Thou knowest 

thine own. I wish the Lord be with me. 
ELIAB: Yea, I know my own heart indeed. Neither is it 

the heart of a whelp that minds the sheep, but the heart 

of a man that holds a spear. Canst thou draw my bow, 

or wield my sword? 
DAVID: My day is not yet come. 
JESSE: It is enough. The guests we have bidden are here! 

O David, my son, even carry out their portion to the 

LAWRENCE: David 185 

womenfolk, for they may not come here. And think thou 
no more of this day. The Lord will move in His own 
time, thou canst not hasten Him. (To the NEIGHBORS.) 
Nay, come! And sit ye to meat! For we will eat this 
night of the sacrifice that Samuel hath slain before the 

NEIGHBOURS: Peace be to this house! And is Samuel at 
once gone forth? Yea! Good seemeth thy feast, O Jesse! 

JESSE: An heifer, of the first year, fat and goodly! Reach 
forth thy hand. 

They all sit around the huge, smoking platter. 
JESSE dips in his hand, and carries the mess to 
his mouth. 

NEIGHBOUR: Yea! Good is the feast! And blessed be 
Samuel, who came to Bethlehem this day! (Re-enter 
DAVID: sits down and eats. They all dip their hands in 
the great platter 9 and eat in silence.) Verily, this is a 
great feast! Surely the Lord hath visited thy house this 
day, O Jesse! 


SCENE v: SAUL'S house in Gilgal. MERAB and MICHAL in the 
courtyard, spinning wool, with their maidens. They are 
laughing and giggling. 

IST MAIDEN: Now 111 ask one! Ill ask one. 

MERAB: Ask then! 

3RD MAIDEN: Why does a cow look over a wall? 

MICHAL: Yah! Yah! We know that old one. We all know it. 

MERAB: Who knows the answer? Hold your hand up. 

Only MICHAL holds up her hand. 
3RD MAIDEN: There! There! They don't know it! Why does 

a cow look over a wall? 
IST MAIDEN: To see what's on the other side. 


MICHAL: Wrong! Wrong! How silly! (Laughter.) 

2ND MAIDEN: Because it wants to get out. 

MICHAL: Wrong! And it's such an easy one. 

3RD MAIDEN: Why does a cow look over a wall? 

4TH MAIDEN: To scratch its neck. (Much laughter.) 

3RD MAIDEN: Wrong! Wrong! All wrong! Give it up! 

MICHAL: No! No! Let them guess again. Why does a cow 

look over a wall? 
IST MAIDEN: To see if David's coming to drive her to 

pasture. (Wild laughter.) 
MICHAL: Thafs wrong! That's not the answer! 
MERAB: Give it up? 
3RD MAIDEN (laughing wildly) : To see if David's coming 

to drive her to pasture! 
MICHAL: That's not the answer, Stupid! 
IST MADDEN: Why not, say I? It's as good as the real 

answer. The cows of Jesse will have to look a long 

time over a wall. (Much laughter.) No doubt they're 

looking at this moment. (Shrieks of laughter.) Mooo-oo! 

Moo-oo! David, come home. (Hysterical laughter.) 
MICHAL: Fool! Fool! That's not the answer. 
IST MAIDEN: Yes. That's the answer in Bethlehem. Why 

does a Bethlehem cow look over a wall? Because 

David's come to GilgaL (Much laughter.) 
MICHAL: That's wrong! That's wrong! 
2ND MAIDEN: It's not wrong for a Bethlehem cow. 
MICHAL: But it's not a Bethlehem cow. (Much laughter.) 
IST MAIDEN: Is it the heifers of Gilgal? ( Wild laughter.) 
4TH MAIDEN: Why do the heifers of King Saul look over 

the waU in Gilgal? 

IST MAIDEN: Listening to the music. ( Wild laughter.) 
MERAB (amid her laughter) : If my father hears us! 
MICHAL: You are all fools! You don't know the right answer. 

You can't guess it! You can't guess it. 
2ND MAIDEN: Well, what is it then? Only Michal knows 

what the cow is looking for! (Laughter.) 
MAIDENS: Go on! Go on! Tell us, Michal! 
MICHAL: Because she can't see through it. (Laughter.) 

LAWRENCE: David 187 

IST MAIDEN: See through what? (Wild laughter.) 

MAIDENS: See through what? (AIL laughing.) 

2ND MAIDEN: Because who can't see through what? 
(Shrieks of laughter.) 

IST MAIDEN: What a senseless answer! Because she can't 
see through it! (Shrieks of laughter.) 

MICHAL: You are all fools! fools! fools! You know nothing. 
You don't know anything. 
Enter SAUL angry. 

SAUL: Enough! Enough! What is all this? Is there a mad- 
ness among the women? Silence, I say! 

MICHAL: We are but telling riddles. 

SAUL: It shall not be! What! am I to hear the shrieks of 
my daughters' folly spoiling the morning? I will riddle 
you a riddle you shall not care for. (MAIDENS steal 

MERAJB: We had thought my father was abroad among the 

SAUL: You had thought, had you! And your father's being 
abroad was timely to let loose your ribaldry! 

MICHAL: Nay, Father, there was no ribaldry. The maid 
did only ask, Why does a cow look over a wall? 

SAUL (shouting) : Be still! Or I will run this spear through 
your body. Am I to wrestle with the Lord and fail 
because of the wantoning of my daughters among their 
maidens! Oh! cursed in my offspring as in all things! 
(MERAB steals away.) Cursed above all in my women- 

MICHAL: Could we not help you, Father, to strive with 
the Lord? They say the wise women can command the 
spirits of the deep. 

SAUL: Art thou then a seeress? art thou amongst the 

MICHAL: Not so. But Saul my father is among the won- 
drous. Should not his daughter be as wise as the wise 
women who can see into the mysteries? 

SAUL (groaning) \ This is the sin of witchcraft! The hand 
of my children is against me! 


MICHAL: Nay, Father, we would indeed be for you, and 
not against you. 

SAUL: I have sworn to wipe out the sin of witchcraft from 
the land, I have sworn the death of all who lure the 
people with spirits and with wizardry. I have killed the 
soothsayers in the towns and the villages. 

MICHAL: But, Father, might I not see the Bolt in a cloud, 
or call the Spirits out of the earth! I am your daughter, 
is that to be a witch? 

SAUL: Thou art a spawn of evil, and I will run thee through. 

MICHAL: But why! Oh why! 

SAUL: Thy soul is a soul of a witch that workest against 
thy father. I call on the Lord, and my heart foams, be- 
cause He will not hear me. I know it now. It is thee, 
thou witch! (Wanting to strike her with the spear.} 

MICHAL (weeping) : It is not so! It is not so! The people 
say of thee, the Lord has departed from thee, and I 
would only help thee with the Lord, as Jonathan helps 
thee against the Philistines. 

SAUL (horrified): Is the Deep a Philistine! Nay, now I 
know thou art the brood of witches, who catch the 
powers of the earth by cunning. Now I will surely 
pierce thee through, that my house may be pure, and 
the Fire may look on me again. 

MICHAL (screams) : My lord! My lord! 

SAUL: I will pierce thee through. For I have sworn the 
death of all witches, and such as steal the powers of 
earth and sky by their cunning. It will be as good a 
deed in the sight of the Lord, as when the prophet of 
God slew Agag, and Samuel will turn to me again. For 
I am empty when the Lord abandons me. And evil 
spirits break into my empty place, and torture me. I 
will surely slay this witch, though she were seven times 
my youngest. For she lifts the latch to the evil spirit 
that gets into my soul unawares. 

MICHAL: My lord! My lord! I am no witch! I am not! 

SAUL: Thou art a witch, and thy hand worketh against me, 
even when thou knowest not. Nay, thou art a witch and 

LAWKENCE: David 189 

thy soul worketh witchcraft even when thou sleepest. 
Therefore I will pierce thee through. And I will say 
unto the people: Saul hath slain the witch that gnawed 
nearest into his heart. 

MICHAL: I will not be slain! (Shrieks.) 

Enter JONATHAN and DAVID, running. 

JONATHAN: My Father! 

DAVID: O King! 

SAUL: This is the witch that hinders me with the Lord! 

JONATHAN: This, Father! Why, Michal is a child, what 
can she know of witchcraft? 

SAUL: It is in her will. My soul telk me that women with 
their evil intentions are playing against me, with the 
Lord. And this is she. She shall die as the others, seer- 
esses, died, to cleanse the land before the Lord God. 

DAVID: But yet, O King, thy servant has heard it is a hard 
thing to be a witch, a work of silent labour and of years. 
And this maiden your daughter is not silent, I think, nor 
does she seem to waste her young brows in secret 

JONATHAN: That is true enough. She is a feather-brain. 

SAUL: Yet is her spirit against her father's. 

MICHAL (still weeping) : No! No! I would help him. 

DAVID: If some spirit of evil hinder King Saul with the 
Lord of Hosts, it will be more than the whims of a girl. 
The spirits that hamper the soul of the King cannot be 
children and girls. 

SAUL: It may be so. Yet though I wrestle, the spirit of the 
Deep will not come to me. And the wound is greater 
than a wound in battle, bleeding inwardly. I am a 
strange man unto myself. 

DAVID: Yet Saul is King, comely in his pride, and a great 
leader in battle. His deeds cry unto the whirlwind and 
are heard. Why should Saul wrestle with the Lord? Saul 
speaks in actions, and in the time of action the spirit of 
God comes upon him, and he is King in the sight of all 

SAUL: It is even so. Yet my soul does not cease to ache, 


like the soul of a scorned woman, because the Lord will 

not descend upon me and give me peace in strength. 
DAVID: Who is strong like Saul, in Israel? 
SAUL: Yet his strength is as a drunken man's great witb 

DAVID: Nay, O King! These are fancies. How can my lord 

speak of despair, when victory is with him, and the light 

is on his brow in the sight of all Israel! 
SAUL: Can I so deceive myself? 
DAVID: Surely the King deceives himself. 
JONATHAN: Surely, Father, it is a strange self-deception 

you put on yourself. 
SAUL: Can it be so? Yet if so, why does Samuel visit me 

no more, and withhold his blessing? And why do I feel 

the ache in me, and the void, where the Full should 

be? I cannot get at the Lord. 
MICHAL: May I speak, my Father? 
SAUL: Yea! 
MICHAL: Why not laugh as you used to laugh, Father, and 

throw the spear in sport, at a mark, not grip it in anger? 

Saul is beautiful among men, to make women weep for 

joy if he smile at them. Yet his face is heavy with a 


SAUL: Why should I smile at thee, witch? 
MICHAL: To gladden me, Father. For I am no witch. 
SAUL: And when dost thou need gladdening, say? 
MICHAL: Now, Father, even here! 
SAUL: Thy sorrows are deep, I warrant me. 
Touches her cheek with his -fingers. 
MICHAL: Yea! Did not this strange young man indeed he 

is but a boy find me chidden and disgraced and in 

tears before the King? 
SAUL: And what then? 

MICHAL: Who is this boy from the sheepfolds of Bethle- 
hem, that he should think lightly of the King's daughter 
in Gilgal? 
DAVID: Nay! What man could think lightly of Michal, the 

LAWRENCE: David 191 

daughter of Saul? Her eyes are like the stars shining 
through a tree at midnight. 

MICHAL: Why through a tree? 

SAUL (laughing suddenly) : Thou bird of the pert whistle! 
Run! Run, quail! Get thee among the maidens! Thou 
hast piped long enough before the men. 

MICHAL: Even if I run my thoughts run with me. 

SAUL: What thoughts, bird of mischief? 

MICHAL: That this boy, ruddy with the shepherd's sun, has 
seen my tears and my disgrace. 

DAVID: Surely the tears of Michal are like falling stars in 
the lonely midnight 

MICHAL: Why, again, in the night? 

SAUL (laughing aloud) : Be gone! Be gone! No more! 

SAUL: She is a chick of the King's nest! Think not of her, 

PAVED: But she is pleasant to think of. 

SAUL: Even when she mocks thee? 

DAVID: Very pleasant. 

SAUL: The young men flee from a mocking woman. 

DAVID: Not when the voice is sweet. 

SAUL: Is MichaTs voice sweet? To me at times it is snarl- 
ing and bad in my ears. 

DAVID: That is only when the harp-strings of the King's 
ears are unstrung. 

SAUL: It may be. Yet I think I am cursed in my women- 
folk. Was not the mother of Jonathan a thorn in my 
heart? What dost thou prescribe for a thorn in the heart, 
young wiseling? 

DAVID: Pluck it out, O King, and throw it aside, and it is 

SAUL: But is it easy to pluck out a rancorous woman from 
the heart? 

DAVID: I have no certain knowledge. Yet it should not be 
hard, I think. 

SAUL: How? 


AVID: A man asks in his heart: Lord, Who fannest the fire 
of my soul into strength, does the woman cast fuel on 
the Lords fire within me, or does she cast wet sand? 
Then if the Lord says: She casts wet sand; she departs 
for ever from a man's presence, and a man will go nigh 
unto her no more, because she seeks to quench the 
proper fire which is within him. 

SAUL: Thou art wiser than if thou hadst been many times 
wived. Thou art a cocksure stripling. 

DAVID: My brothers say of me, I am a cocksure malapert. 
Yet I do not wish to be! Why am I so, my lord? 

SAUL (laughing) : It must be the Lord made thee so. 

DAVID: My brother has struck me in the face, before now, 
for words in which I saw no harm, 

SAUL (laughing) ; Didst see the harm afterwards? 

DAVID: Not I. I had a bruised mouth, and that was harm 
enough. But I thought still the words were wise. 

SAUL (laughing) : Dost think so even yet? 

DAVID: Yea, they were wise words. But unwisely spoken. 

SAUL (laughing heartily): The Lord sends the wisdom, 
and leaves thee to spend it! You offer a tit-bit to a wolf, 
and he takes your fingers as well. 

DAVTD: I shall learn in the King's household. 

SAUL: Among the wolves? 

DAVID: Nay, the lion is nobler than the wolf. 

SAUL: He will not grudge thee thy callow wisdom. I go 
to speak with Abner. 

DAVID: Can I serve the Zing in anything? 

SAUL: Not now. 

DAVID: He has gone in good humour. 

JONATHAN: We found him in an evil one. 

DAVID: Evil spirits out of the earth possess him, and laugh- 
ter from a maiden sounds to him as the voice of a hyena 
sounds to a wounded man stricken in the feet. 

JONATHAN: It is so. He rails at his daughter, and at the 
mother who bore me, till my heart swells with anger. 
Yet he was not always so. Why is it? 

JUAWRENCE: David 193 

DAVID: He has lost the Lord, he says. 

JONATHAN: But how? Have I lost the Lord, too? 

DAVID: Nay! You are good. 

JONATHAN: I wish I knew how my father had lost the 
Lord. You David, the Dawn is with you. It is in your 
face. Do you wrestle before the Lord? 

DAVID: Who am I, that I should wrestle before the Lord? 
But when I feel the Glory is with me, my heart leaps 
like a young kid, and bounds in my bosom, and my 
limbs swell like boughs that put forth buds. Yet I 
would not be vainglorious. 

JONATHAN: Do you dwell willingly here in Gilgal? 

DAVID: I am strange here, and I miss my father, and the 
hills where the sheep are, in Bethlehem. Yet I comfort 
myself, turning my soul to the Nameless; and the flame 
flares up in my heart, and dries my tears, and I am 

JONATHAN: And when my father has been bitter and vio- 
lent, and you go alone in tears, in a strange place I 
have seen the tears, and my heart has been sad then 
do you yearn for Bethlehem, and your own? 

DAVID: I am weak still. But when I see the stars, and the 
Lord in darkness alive between them, I am at home, 
and Bethlehem or Gilgal is the same to me. 

JONATHAN: When I lie alone in camp, and see the stars, 
I think of my mother, and my father, and Michal, and 
the home place. You, the Lord becomes a home to 
you, wherever you are. 

DAVID: It is so. I had not thought of it. 

JONATHAN: I fear you would never love man nor woman, 
nor wife nor child, dearly. 

DAVTD: Nay! I love my father dearly, and my brothers and 
my mother. 

JONATHAN: But when the Lord enters your soul, father 
or mother or friend is as nothing to you. 

DAVTD: Why do you say so? They are the same. But when 
the Lord is there, all the branches are hidden in blos- 


JONATHAN: Yea! I, alas, love man or woman with the 
heart's tenderness, and even the Lord cannot make me 

DAVID: But nor do I forget. It is as if all caught fire at 
once, in the flame of the Hope. 

JONATHAN: Sometimes I think the Lord takes from me the 
flame I have. I love my father. And my father lifts 
the short spear at me, in wild anger, because, he 
says, the Fire has left him, and I am undutifuL 

DAVID: The King is the Lord's anointed. The Zing has 
known, as none know, the strong gladness of the Lord's 
presence in his limbs. And then the pain of wanting the 
Lord, when He cometh not, passes the pain of a woman 
moaning for the man she loves, who has abandoned her. 

JONATHAN: Yet we love the King. The people look up to 
him. Abner, the chief captain, is faithful to him unto 
death. Is this nothing to a man? 

DAVID: To a man, it is much. To the Lord's anointed, it is 
much riches. But to the King whom the Lord hath re- 
jected, even love is a hurt. 

JONATHAN: Is my father truly rejected from being King, 
as Samuel said? And merely that he spared Agag and 
a few Amalekite cattle? I would not willingly have 
drawn the sword on naked Agag. 

DAVID: Who knows? I know not. When a people choose 
a King, then the will of the people is as God to the 
King. But when the Lord of All chooses a King, then 
the King must answer to the Lord of All. 

JONATHAN: And the Lord of All required the death of de- 
fenceless Agag? 

DAVID: Amalek has set his will against the Whirlwind. 
There are two motions in the world. The will of man for 
himself, and the desire that moves the Whirlwind. When 
the two are one, all is well, but when the will of man is 
against the Whirlwind, all is ill, at last. So all is decreed 
ill, that is Amalek. And Amalek must die, for he ob- 
structs the desire of the breathing God. 

JONATHAN: And my father? 

LAWRENCE: David 1Q5 

DAVID: He is King, and the Lord's anointed. 

JONATHAN: But his will is the will of a man, and he can- 
not bend it with the Lord's desire? 

DAVID: It seems he cannot. Yet I know nothing. 

JONATHAN: It grieves me for my father. Why is it you can 
soothe him? Why cannot I? 

DAVID: I know not. It is the Lord. 

JONATHAN: And why do I love thee? 

DAVID: It is the Lord. 

JONATHAN: But do you love me again, David? 

DAVID: If a man from the sheep dare love the King's son, 
then I love Jonathan. But hold it not against me for 

JONATHAN: Of a surety, lovest thou me, David? 

DAVID: As the Lord liveth. 

JONATHAN: And it shall be well between us, for ever? 

DAVID: Thou art the King's son. But as the Lord liveth 
and keepeth us, it shall be well between me and thee. 
And I will serve thee. 

JONATHAN: Nay, but love my soul. 

DAVID: Thy soul is dear to my soul, dear as life. 
They embrace silently. 

JONATHAN: And if my father sends thee away, never for- 
get me. 

DAVID: Not while my heart lives, can I forget thee. But 
David will easily pass from the mind of the son of the 

JONATHAN: Ah never! For my heart is sorrowful, with my 
father, and thou art my comfort. I would thou wert 
King's son, and I shepherd in Bethlehem. 

DAVID: Say not so, lest thine anger rise on me at last, to 
destroy me. 

JONATHAN: Nay, it will not. 



SCENE vi: Yard of SAUL'S house in GilgaL MICHAL with 
tambourine, singing or talking to herself. 

MICHAL: As for me, I am sad, I am sad, I am sad, and why 
should I not be sad? All things together want to make 
me sad. I hate the house when the men are gone to 
war. All the men are gone out against the Philistine. 
Gone these many days. And never a victory. No one 
coming home with spoil, and no occasion to dance, I 
am sad, I am sad, my life is useless to me. Even when 
they come, they will not bring David. My father looked 
pleasantly on him for a while, then sent him away. So 
are men! Such is a king! Sent him away again! And I 
know, some day when the Lord has left Saul, he will 
marry me to some old sheik. Unless he dies in the war. 
Anyhow, everybody is gone, and I am dull, dull. They 
say it is the Lord. But why should the Lord make the 
house of Saul dreary? As for me, I don't know whether 
the Lord is with me, or whether He is not with me. 
How should I know? Why should I care! A woman 
looks with different eyes into her heart, and, Lord or 
no Lord, I want what I want I wish I had a sure charm 
to call back David, son of Jesse. The spells I have tried 
were no good. I shall try again with the sand and the 
bones. (She puts a little sand, and three small white 
bones, in her tambourine mutters and bends tosses 
her tambourine softly and drops it on the ground. Kneels 
and gazes intently.) Bones, bones, show me the ways in 
the sand. Sand, lie still, sand lie still and speak. Now 
then, I see the hills of Judah, where Bethlehem is. But 
David is not there, he is gone. At least I don't see him. 
In the sand is a road to Gilgal, by the white crown- 
bone. But he is not coming this way, that I can see. 
Where else? Where else? This must be Elah in the 
sand, where my father is. And there is Shochoh, op- 
posite, where the Philistines are. Ah yes, two hills, and 


a valley between, with, a brook in the bottom. And my 
father with our men on one slope, the Philistines on 
the other. Ah yes, that will be my father among our 
men; at least that is his black tent. But Jonathan is not 
there. O woe, if Jonathan were lolled! My heart is afraid 
for Jonathan. Though how should I know Jonathan as a 
speck of sand, anyhow? There is nothing in the sand. 
I am no wise woman, nor a seeress, even though I would 
like to be. How dull it is! How dull it is here! How dull 
it is to be a woman! (Throws away her tambourine.) 
Why do they sit in front of the Philistines without de- 
feating them! 

WATCHMAN (entering -from the gate)-. Men are coining, 
from the host of Saul. They come with a litter. 

SOLDIER (entering): The Lord strengthen you. 

MICHAL: Who comes? Is it news of victory? 

SOLDIER: No, lady! Jonathan is wounded in the knee, and 
comes home to rest. 

MICHAL: Wounded in the knee? And what else? 

SOLDIER: How, else? 

MICHAL: Oh, slow-witted! What other news? Are the Phil- 
istines defeated and slaughtered? 

SOLDIER: Nay, they are not. 

MICHAL: Then what has happened? 

SOLDIER: Naught has happened. 

MICHAL: Where is the Kong? Is all well with him? 

SOLDIER: The King is with the host at Elah, and all is well 
with him. 

MICHAL; Then where are the Philistines? 

SOLDIER: The Philistines are arranged over against us, on 
the opposite hill at Shochoh. 

MICHAL: And what has happened? Do Israel and the Phil- 
istines sing songs to one another? 

SOLDIER: Nay! A portion of the men go forth to fight, well- 
nigh each day. And the champion of the Philistines 
comes each day to challenge us. 

MICHAL: And who answers out of Israel? 

SOLDIER: None answer* 


MICHAL: None answers! Yea, that is news to hear! Has 
Israel never a champion? Is my father, the King, sick? 

SOLDIER: Many champions have we, forsooth. But we are 
men. And this Philistine is huge: he is out of the old 
days, before the Flood. He is a huge giant, whose great 
voice alone shakes the tents. 

MICHAL: And not one man answers his challenge? 

SOLDIER: Nay, where shall we find a huge giant among us, 
to answer him? 

MICHAL: If he were a mountain, I would prick him with 
my needle. 

SOLDIER: Yes; and would you might prick the eyeballs of 

Enter litter-bearers with JONATHAN. 

MICHAL: This is most strange! Ah, Jonathan, and art 
thou wounded in the knee? 


MICHAL: The Lord be praised it is not in the calf! 

JONATHAN: Hush, shrew! 

MICHAL: Did the Philistine giant wound thee in the knee, 
O Jonathan? 

JONATHAN: A Philistine wounded me. 

MICHAL: But I hear they boast a giant, a champion. 

JONATHAN: Yea, verily. 

MICHAL: A huge unheard-of giant. 

JONATHAN: Huge enough: and heard daily. 

MICHAL: What does he say, daily? 

JONATHAN: Oh he asks that we send down a man to fight 
with him. And if he, the Philistine of Gatih, slay our 
man, then shall all Israel be servant to the Philistines. 
But if our man slay this Goliath, then the Philistines 
shall be our servants. And seeing that this giant be so 
large, no ordinary man can get past his sword to at- 
tack him, therefore the King is not willing that the fight 
be settled between champions, lest we lose our freedom 
in a moment. 

MICHAL: And dare no man go up against this huge one? 

JONATHAN: Nay, many dare. And many a man seeks to go. 

LAWRENCE: David 199 

I myself would willingly go. Though. I know I should 
die. But what would I care about dying, if the Philistine 
died first? Yet I doubt I should die first, and Israel be 
delivered into bondage. Hence the King will accept no 
champion from our midst. But we shall sally forth in 
daily companies, and defeat the Philistines at length. 

MICHAL: At great length. 

JONATHAN: Hast thou wounds or pain, to find it so? 

MICHAL: Yea, the wound of shame, that Israel, challenged, 
is dumb. Israel has no champion! What wound of shame 
for the woman! 

JONATHAN: Why risk the nation in a fight between cham- 
pions? We are all champions, and we all fight the Philis- 

MICHAL: Only not this big one. 

JONATHAN: In single combat, with the fate of the nation 
hanging in the issue, no! But if Goliath mingle in the 
battle ranks, then every man of Benjamin will have at 

MICHAL: And mingles he not in the battle ranks? 

JONATHAN: Ah no! He saves himself for the single combat, 
for this bawling of the challenge and the rattling of the 
oversized shield. 

MICHAL: Some man should think of a way. 

JONATHAN: Think thou! I must rest, and recover, and re- 
turn to the field of battle. 


SCENE vn: The camp of the Israelites at Elah. In the back- 
ground, black tents of worsted. Morning. Men assembling 
in arms, to battle. Much shouting of war-cries much 
noise of war-like anticipation. DAVID entering, carrying a 


DAVID: Is yon the tent of Eliab of Bethlehem? 

SOLDIER: The tent of the sons of Jesse. 

SHAMMAH (coming armed from the tent] : Is not this our 

brother David? (Calling.) Ho! David is here! (Embrac- 
ing DAVID.) And art thou also come to the fight? 
ELIAB (also armed): What, David! Hast thou left the 

sheep to come among the men-at-arms? 

They embrace. 
DAVID: My father sent me here to inquire of you, and to 

bring you bread, and the cheeses for the captain of your 

thousand. The loaves and the parched corn and the 

cheeses have I left with the keeper of tibe victuals. But 

where is Abinadab? 
ELIAB: With the host, where we must form to battle. 

(The men are -forming in loose array, ABINADAB 
comes and embraces DAVID.) 
ABINADAB: Hast thou come from Bethlehem? And how is 

our father, and all the homestead? 
DAVID: Yea, all are well. My father sent me with victual, 

and to see how you fare, and to take your pledge. 
ELIAB: The pledge we will give you after the fight. And 

how fares my young son at home? 
CAPTAIN (catting) : The thousand of Judah, get you to 

your hundreds: get you to your places. (Bustle of men 

jailing into rank.) 
DAVID (following his brothers) : Your son was bitten by a 

hound, but all is well. 

ELIAB: What hound, forsooth? And lives the dog yet? 
SAUL (passing) : Five hundred of Benjamin, lead into the 

SOLDIERS: An! Ah! The five hundred are moving forth! 

Loud shouting of SOLDIERS. 
DAVID: And how goes the fight? 

SHAMMAH: Wellah, this way and that, as wind bloweth! 
DAVID: The days are many, that you are afield. My father 

grew uneasy, and could stay no longer. Long days and 

no news are ill to live, said he. 

LAWRENCE: David 201 

ELIAB: Tell my father, this is no folding of sheep, out here. 

DAVID: And has no weighty blow been struck, on either 

SOLDIERS (calling) : Ha! Ha! The five hundred are near the 
brook! And behold, the Philistine champion cometh 
forth from the ranks, to meet them. 
Hush in the camp. 

MIGHTY VOICE OF GOLIATH: Ho! Ho, there! Israel! Why are 
ye come to set your battle array? Am I not a Philistine, 
and ye servants to Saul? Choose you a man for you, and 
let him come down to me. 

DAVID (in the hush) : But who is this? 

SOLDIERS: Ha! Ha! The five hundred are fleeing back from 
him! They are sore afraid. 
A hush. 

SHAMMAH: This is Goliath, their champion. 

VOICE OF GOLIATH: Ha! ha! Why run ye? Choose you a 
man for you, and let him come down to me. If he can 
fight with me, and kill me, then will we be your serv- 
ants. But if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall 
ye be our servants, and serve us. It is fairly said. Choose 
you a man for you! 

DAVTD (in the hush) : Surely he is a huge man! Goeth no 
man forth to meet him? 

SOLDIER: Have you seen this man! Surely, forty days has 
he come up to defy Israel. And it shall be, that the man 
who killeth him, the King will enrich Trim with great 
riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his 
father's house free in Israel. 

DAVID: What will the King do to the man that killeth this 
Philistine and taketh away the reproach from Israel? 
Will he surely give him his daughter? The daughter of 
his house in Gilgal? 

SOLDIER: Ay, surely he will. And much riches. And make 
his father's house free in Israel. 

DAVID: Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should 
defy the armies of the living God? 

SOLDIERS: Ah! He is what thou seest. 


DAVID: As the Lord liveth, there shall be an end to him. 
SOLDIERS: Would that it were so! But who shall do it? 
DAVID: Is the Lord naught in the reckoning? The Lord is 

with me, and I will do it. 

SOLDIERS: Thou? How canst thou kill this great giant? 
DAVID: I can do it. I will kill him, as the Lord liveth in 

me, were his name six times Goliath. 
SOLDIER: Nay, but how? 

DAVID: The Lord will show you how. I, I will kill him. 
ELIAB (coining forward) : What art thou doing here? Why 

earnest thou hither, and with whom hast thou left those 

few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the 

naughtiness of thy heart. For thou art come down that 

thou mightest see the battle. 
DAVID: What have I now done? Was I not sent by my 

father, for a cause? 
ELIAB (turning away in anger) : Thou didst persuade him, 

in the vanity of thy mind. 
SOLDIER: Shall we say to Saul of thee, that thou art 

minded to kill the giant? 
DAVID: Say so to him. For the Lord is with me. 
ANOTHER SOLDIER: Verily, feelest thou in the power to kill 

fhis mighty man? 

DAVID: Verily! And is it sooth the King will give his daugh- 
ter to him that slayeth the roaring Philistine? 
SOLDIER: Yea, it is sooth, for it is so proclaimed. But tell us 

how thou wilt come nigh him, to slay him. 
DAVTD: The Lord will show you. 
SOLDIERS: Saul is coming. 
SAUL (approaching): Which is this man will go forth 

against the Philistine? 
DAVID: Let no man's heart fail because of the giant, for 

thy servant will go out and fight with him. 
SAXTL: Thou? Thou art not able to go against this Philistine 

to fight with him, for thou art but a youth, and he is a 

man of war from his youth. 
DAVID: Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear; and 

LAWRENCE: David 203 

this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, 

seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. 
SAUL: But neither lion nor bear came against thee in 

greaves of brass nor armed with sword a man's length. 

How shallst thou fight with this giant in panoply? 
DAVID: The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the 

lion, and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me 

out of the hand of the Philistine. 
SAUL: Thou shalt go. And the Lord be with thee. (To 

ARMOUR-BEARER.) Fetch hither my armour, and another 

sword. For we will put them on him. 


DAVID: Shall thy servant go in armour clad? 

SAUL: How else canst thou keep thy life? 

VOICE OF GOLIATH: Ho! men of Saul! Is there no man 
among you, to answer when a fighter calls? Are you all 
maidens, combing your hair? Where is Saul, the slayer 
of f oemen? Is he crying like a quail to his God? Call to 
Baal, and call to Astarofh, for the God of Israel is a 
pigeon in a box. 

DAVID: Ha! Lord God! Deliver him into my hand this day! 

SAUL: Yea! (Enter ARMOUR-BEARER.) Put the coat of proof 
upon him, and the helmet of brass. 

They put the armour of the KING on DAVID. 

DAVTJD: I am not used to it. 

SAUL (unbuckling his sword) : Take thou my sword. 

DAVID (girding it on) : Thy servant hath honour beyond 
his lot. Lo! I am strange in this array! The Lord hath 
not intended it for me. 
Takes shield. 

SAUL: Now thou art ready. A man shall bear thy shield. 

DAVID: Then let me go. But let me assay this sword and 
battle harness that is on me. (Sets forth. Tries his 
sword; goes a little way. Turns suddenly back.) I cannot 
go with these, for I have not proved them. 

Drops his shield. Hastily unbuckles sword, and 
gives it to SAUL. Unfastens the helmet. The ARMOUR- 
BEARER disarms DAVID. 


SAUL: Then them goest not! Uncovered thou canst not go. 
DAVID: As the Lord liveth, I will go with naught but God 

upon me. 
VOICE OF GOLIATH: The God of Israel is a blue pigeon in a 

box, and the men of Israel are quails in the net of the 

Philistine. Baal is laughing aloud, and Astarte smiles 

behind her sleeve, for Israel is no more than worms in a 

DAVID: I shall go. Sound the trumpet! 

He picks up his staff, recrosses hastily to the back 
of the stage, downwards as to a valley. Stoops in 
the distance: meanwhile trumpet sounds, and the 
voice of the HERALD is heard, crying, 
HERALD: Come down, Goliath! Come forward, Philistine! 

For Israel sendeth a champion against thee. 

Noise of shouting in both camps. 
SHAMMAH: See, David is picking smooth stones from the 

brook bed. 
ABINADAB: He has put them in his leather pouch, and 

taken his sling in his hand. Surely he will go after the 

Philistine as after a wolf. 
SAUL: The Philistine cometh down, with his shield-bearer 

before him. Yea, but the youth is naked and unafraid. 
VOICE OF GOLIATH: Where art thou, champion of Israel? I 

see thee not. Hast thou already perished, of thy dread? 
VOICE OF DAVTD (smdl) : Yea, I am coming. 
SAUL: How he disdains the youth! If we have lost all on 

this throw! 
VOICE OF GOLIATH: Am I a dog, that thou comest to me 

with staves? Now shall Astaroth slay thee with spittle, 

and Baal shall break thy bones with a loud laugh. 
VOICE OF DAVID: Thou comest to me with a sword, and 

with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in 

the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of 

Israel, Whom thou hast defied. 
VOICE OF GOLIATH: Come! Ha-ha! Come to me, and I will 

LAWRENCE: David 205 

give thy flesh to the fowls o the air, and to the wild 
beasts of the hills. 

Meanwhile the bystanders, SHAMMAH, ABINADAB, 
have been running to the far background, to look 

VOICE OF DAVID: This day will the Lord deliver thee into 
my hand; and I will smite thee, and take thy head from 

VOICE OF GOLIATH: Ha! Ha! Canst thou chirp? Come over, 
thou egg, that they see me swallow thee. 

Loud yelling from Philistines. 

VOICE OF DAVID: I will give the carcass of the host of the 
Philistines this day to the fowls of the air, and to the 
beasts of the earth. That all the earth may know there 
is a God in Israel. 

Loud yelling of Israel. 

VOICE OF GOLIATH: Come, thou whistling bird! Come! 
Seest thou this sword? 

Loud yelling of Philistines. 

VOICE OF DAVID: Yea! and all this people shall know that 
the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle 
is the Lord's, and He will deliver you into our hands. 

Great defiance heard in Israel. 

VOICE OF GOLIATH: Must we die of thy talking? And wilt 
thou not come forth? Then must I fetch thee. . . . 

Tumult in Philistia. 

ARMOUR-BEARER: The Philistine is hastening down! Oh, 
and behold, the youth is running at him fast! Ha-a-a! 

ARMOUR-BEARER rushes away, leaving SAUL alone. 
SAUL (in a pause): Ah! Ah! Lord, my Lord! Is he 
down? (Great shouting heard men running.) What? 
Yea, the Philistine has fallen! The boy but slang a stone 
at him! It is the Lord! Nay, he riseth not! Ah God! 
was it so easy a thing? Why had I not done it! See, see, 
Saul, see, thou King of Israel, see this nameless boy who 
hath run upon the fallen Philistine, and seized his sword 


from Ms hand, and stands upon his body hewing at the 
neck of the giant! Ah, sight for the King of Israel, who 
stands alone, in safety, far off, and watches this thing 
done for him! Yea, they may shout! It is not for me. It 
is for that boy, whom I know not. How should I know 
him, with his young beard on his lip! It is a hard thing 
to hack off the head of such a giant, and he cannot find 
the neck joint. I see him stooping! (A great wild shout 
is heard.) Ah! Even so! Even so! 

ABNER (entering running) ; The youth hath slain the Philis- 
tine with a stone from a sling, and even now has hewn 
his head loose, and is holding it up before the armies. 

SAUL: Even so! 

ABNER: Yea! He stands upon the body of that which was 
Goliath, and holds up the head to Israel! The Lord has 

Loud shouting. 

SOLDIERS (running past) : The host of the Philistines is in 
flight! After them! After them! 

ABNER: Shall we not pursue? Will not the King lead the 
pursuit? Lo! they flee in abandon, flinging away their 
spears in their haste. 

SAUL: This needs no leader. Any man can strike in the 
back of a running enemy. What of the youth? 

ABNER: He hath stripped the Philistine of his gear. Yea, 
I can see the body of the giant naked in blood upon the 

SAUL: Who is this youth? Whose son is he? 

ABNER: As thy soul liveth, O King, I cannot tell. 

SAUL: Enquire thou whose son the stripling is. 

ABNER: He is coming towards the brook. I will bring him 

SAUL: Yea, he is coming! And alone up the slope, for the 
men have gone like hounds after the Philistine, and to 
the stripping of the tents. Yea, as bees swarm in upon 
the sweetmeats, when the window is opened. This is a 
day to make songs for. But not in the name of Saul. 

LA WHENCE: David 2,07 

Whom will the maidens sing to? To him yonder, coming 
up the hill slowly, with the swinging head, and the 
bright brass armour of the Philistine. To that ruddy- 
faced fair youth, with a young beard on his mouth. It 
seems I should know him, if I would. Yea, I shall know 
him in my hour. Ah the blithe thing! Ah the blithe boyt 
Ah God! God! was I not blithe? Where is it gone? Yea, 
where! Blitheness in a man is the Lord in his body. 
Nay, boy, boy! I would not envy thee the head of the 
Philistine. Nay, I would not envy thee the Kingdom 
itself. But the blitheness of thy body, that is thy Lord 
in thee, I envy it thee with a sore envy. For once my 
body too was blithe. But it hath left me. It hath left me. 
Not because I am old. And were I ancient as Samuel is, 
I could still have the alertness of God in me, and the 
blithe bearing of the living God upon me. I have lost 
the best. I had it, and have let it go. Ha! whither is he 
going? He turns aside, among the tents. Aha! Aha! So it 
is. Among the tents of Judah, and to the booth of the 
Bethlehemite! So, he has gone in to lay down his spoil, 
the helmet of brass, and the greaves of brass, the coat, 
the great sword, and the shirt fringed with scarlet. Lay 
them by, they are thine. Yea, they are thine, lay them 
in thy tent. No need to bring them unto the King. They 
are no king's spoil. Yea, lead him hither, Abner! Lead 
him hither! He is bringing the head in his hand. Oh yes, 
the champion, the victor! He is bringing the head in his 
hand, to swing it under the nose of the King. But the 
sword, the great sword, and the greaves of brass and 
the body-spoil he has e'en laid by in his own tent, where 
no man may lay a hand on it. Oh! it is a shrewd youth, 
and a canny youth, cunning as the Lord makes them. 
Enter DAVID, with head of GOLIATH and ABNER. 

SAUL: So! Comest thou again? 

DAvn>: Even so! To lay the head of thine enemy before 
thee, O King! 

SAUL: Whose son art thou, thou young man? 

DAVID: I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Bethlehemite. 


SAUL: Art thou so! Ay, thou art David! And brother to 
Eliab, and Abinadab, and Shammah, three men of war! 
Thou hast put cunning in thy skill, and slain thine 
enemy as he were a hare among the bushes. 

ABNER: See! The place where the stone sunk in, in the 
side of the forehead bone! It lies still there, the stone 
of David. 

SAUL: Yea, that was death without weapons meeting, in- 

ABNER: Surely the Lord was in that round stone, that 
digged the pit in Goliath's head-bone! 

DAVID: Except the Lord had been with me, I had not done 

SOLDIERS (standing round) : Yea, the Lord sped the hand 
of David. The Lord is with this young man. 

SAUL: Praise we must give to the Lord, and to David the 
promised reward. Seekest thou thy reward at the King's 
hand, thou young man? 

DAVID: It is as the King willeth. Yet what should the re- 
ward be? 

SAUL: Hast thou not heard it proclaimed? 

DAVID: Nay, I arrived but in the dawn, with provender 
from my father to my brethren. 

SAUL: Didst thou not set forth even now against the Philis- 
tine, hoping big for the reward? 

DAVID: Not so, O King. But the Lord moved me to go, to 
take off the shame and the reproach from the army of 
the living God. 

SAUL: Thou hast done well! Yet claimest thou thy reward? 

DAVID: Shall I not hear from the King's mouth, what the 
reward should be? 

SAUL: How was it said, Abner? Recallest thou? 

ABNER: Yea, O King! Riches and the King's daughter, and 
freedom for his father's house, to the man that should 
slay Goliath in the single combat. 

SAUL: Single-handed hath David slain Goliath, indeed! 
Even without any combat at all. But how likest thou 
thy rew^d, thou young man? 

LAWBENCE: David 209 

DAVID: Were it mine, O King, I should rejoice for my 
father's sake, and fall to the ground beneatih the honour 
put upon me, being son-in-law to the King. 

SAUL: Even so! Now thou shalt stay with me, and live in 
my house, and return no more to thy father's house. 
And all shall be done to thee, as was said. For surely 
thou hast brought much honour upon Israel. And we 
will make much of thee. For thou art champion of Israel 
in the sight of all the people. And thou shalt sit at the 
King's right hand, that all men may delight in thee. 
Yet, since thou art young, and fresh from the sheepfold, 
we will not hasten thee to thy confusion. But thou shalt 
dwell as a son among us, and rise in degree as a son 
rises, sitting at the King's meat. And behold, my elder 
daughter Merab, her will I give thee to wife. Only be 
thou valiant for me, and fight the Lord's battles. 

DAVID: Let but thy servant serve thee, O King, in the 
sight of the Lord. And Saul will take the head of this 
Philistine, to put it on a pole? 

SAUL: Nay! Thou thyself shalt bring it before the people, 
in Jerusalem of Judah. 


SCENE vm: The KING'S tent at Elah: a square tent of dark 
worsted, with the wide front open. Heaps of panoply and 
spoil without. Within, in the public part of the tent, SAUL, 
with DAVID on his right hand, JONATHAN on his left, and 
sitting around, the CAPTAINS of the armies of Israel. 

SAUL: We have numbered the armies in tens, in hundreds, 
and in thousands. And now are all men returned from 
pursuing after the Philistine, and the spoil is all brought 
in. And the wounded of the Philistine have fallen by the 


way, even to the valley of Ekron and the gates of Gath, 
their dead are more than their living. Yet are their 
princes within the land, holding on to strong places. 
Therefore we will rejoice not yet, nor go home to the 
feasting. But while his heart is sunk low, we will follow 
up the Philistine in every place where he holds out. Is it 

CAPTAIN: It is good, O King. 

ABNER: The blow that was struck with a pebble, we will 
follow up with swords and spears, till in the Lord's 
name not one uncircumcised remains in the land. 

CAPTAIN: It is good! It is good! 
They strike their shields. 

SAUL (presenting DAVID) : This is David, that slew Goliath 
the Philistine, and delivered Israel from reproach. Sits 
not David high in the heart of every man in Israel, this 

CAPTAINS: Yea! David! David! 
Striking shields. 

SAUL: Who is first among the men of war this day? Is it 
not David, my son David? 

CAPTAINS: David! David! It is David! 

SAUL: Yea, Captains! Your King is but captain of the cap- 
tains! Whom shall we set over the men of war this day? 
Shall it not be David? This time, shall not David lead 
the hosts? Is he not the first against the Philistine? Yea, 
in this foray of triumph and this campaign of victory, 
should any man lead but David? 

CAPTAINS: It is good! David shall command, till we return 
home this time from smiting the Philistine. 
They clash shields with martial noise. 

SAUL (to DAVID) : Hearest thou, David, son of my delight? 

DAVID: O King, I am no leader of men of war. I have no 
skill in arts of battle. Honour me not to my confusion. 

SAUL: Nay, this time shalt thou take the charge. For in 
this fight art thou the first man among the men of war 
in Israel. Answer, Captains! Is it not so? 

CAPTAINS: Verily! This time we will have David. 

LAWRENCE: David 211 

ABNER: Verily, save David lead us, we will not go. 

The CAPTAINS rise, and lift locked shields before 
DAVID as if to raise him up. 
SAUL: If we go not now, we lose the golden hour. The 

choice is upon thee, David. 
DAVID : Thy servant will do according to thy will, O King, 

and according to the will of Abner, and of the Captains. 

(He rises before the CAPTAINS.) But I am young, and 

not brought up to war. And the Captains and the strong 

men will laugh at me, seeing my inexperience and my 

ABNER: Nay! No man shall find occasion to laugh at thee, 

for the fight is in thee as in a young eagle. Leading to 

war shalt thou learn war. 

DAVID: It is as the King and the Captains shall bid me. 
SAUL (rising): We will make ready, and send out the 

news through the camp: In this is David our leader! 

Then David shall choose his men, and go forth. He 

shall give his orders, and the Captains shall march at 

his bidding. David, the day is tihine! 

Salutes. The CAPTAINS again salute DAVID with spear 
on shield, then they go out. 
CAPTAINS: To thee, David! 


DAVID (to JONATHAN) : How shall I bring this to a pass? 
JONATHAN: Thy soul will not fail thee. Thou art the young 

lion of Judah, thou art the young eagle of the Lord. O 

David, is it well between me and thee, and hast thou 

verily not forgotten me? 
DAVID: Verily, thou hast not left my soul. But how shall I 

go before these men? 
JONATHAN: We have sworn a covenant, is it not between 

us? Wilt thou not swear with me, that our souls shall be 

as brothers, closer even than blood? O David, my heart 

hath no peace save all be well between thy soul and 

mine, and thy blood and mine. 
DAVID: As the Lord liveth, the soul of Jonathan is dearer 

to me than a brother's. O brother, if I were but come 


out of this pass, and we might live before the Lord, to- 

JONATHAN: What fearest thou then? 

DAVID: In the Lord, I fear nothing. But before the faces 
of men, my heart misgives me. 

JONATHAN: Sittest thou not high in the hearts of Israel? 

DAVID: Yea, but who am I, to be suddenly lifted up! Will 
they not throw me as suddenly down? 

JONATHAN: Who would throw thee down, that art strong 
as a young eagle, and subtle as the leopard? 

DAVID: I will rest in the Lord. 

JONATHAN: And in me wilt thou not trust? 

DAVID: I will trust thee, Jonathan, and cleave to thee till 
the sun sets on me. Thou art good to me as man never 
before was good to me, and I have not deserved it. Say 
thou wilt not repent of thy kindness towards me! 

JONATHAN: O brother, give me the oath, that naught shall 
sunder our souls, for ever. 

DAVID: As the Lord liveth, my soul shall not part for ever 
from the soul of my brother Jonathan; but shall go with 
him up the steeps of heaven, or down the sides of the 
pit. And between his house and my house the covenant 
shall be everlasting. For as the hearts of men are made 
on earth, the heart of Jonathan is gentlest and most 

JONATHAN: The covenant is between us. 
Covers his -face. 

DAVID (after a pause) : But how shall I go before these 
captains, O my brother? Comest thou not with me? Wilt 
thou not stand by me? Oh, come! 

JONATHAN: I am limping still in the knee, and how shall I 
lead a foray? But thou art mine and I am thine. And I 
will clothe thee in my clothes, and give thee my sword 
and my bow, and so shall my spirit be added to thy 
spirit, and thou shalt be as the King's son and the eagle 
of the Lord, in the eyes of the people. 

Takes off striped coat, or wide-sleeved tunic. 

DAVID: But can I do this thing? 

LAWRENCE: David 213 

JONATHAN: Yea! That all men know thou art as the King's 
son in the world. For the eagle hath gold in his feathers 
and the young lion is bright. So shall David be seen in 

DAVID slowly pulls off his loose robe, a herdsman's 
tunic cut off at the knee. JONATHAN takes off his 
sleeveless shirt, and is seen in his leather loin~strap. 
From his upper arm he takes a metal bracelet. 
JONATHAN: Even all my garments thou shalt take, even 
the armlet that should not leave me till I die. And thou 
shalt wear it for ever. And thy garments will I take 
upon me, so the honour shall be mine. 

DAVID pulls off his shirt, and is seen in the leather 
loin-strap, JONATHAN puts his bracelet on DAVID'S 
arm, then his own shirt over DAVID'S head, and 
holds up his coloured robe. DAVID robed, JONATHAN 
brings him a coloured head-kerchief and girdle, 
then his sword and his bow and quiver and shoes. 

JONATHAN puts On DAVID'S clothes. 

DAVID: How do I appear? 

JONATHAN: Even as the eagle in his own plumage. It is 

said, David, that thou art anointed of Samuel, before 

the Lord. Is it so? 
DAVID: Yea, 
JONATHAN: Thou hast the sun within thee, who shall deny 


DAVID: Why speakest thou sadly, Jonathan, brother? 
JONATHAN: Lest thou go beyond me, and be lost to me. 
DAVID: Lord! Lord! Let not my soul part from the soul of 

Jonathan for ever, for all that man can be to man on 

earth, is he to me. 

JONATHAN: Would I could give thee more! 
SAUL (entering): Yea! And which now is the King's son, 

and which the shepherd? 
DAVID: Thy son would have it so, O King. 
JONATHAN: It is well, Father! Shall not the leader shine 



spoil the servant-men are carrying in. All pass in at 
the gate. 


SCENE x: Courtyard of SAUL'S house in Gilgal. Confusion of 
people and men just come in MADDENS still singing out- 
ABNER: The King is returned to his own house once more 

full of victory. When shall we slay the sacrifice? 
SAUL: To-night I will sky a bull calf for my house, and an 

ox will I sacrifice for my household. And for the men will 

we slay oxen and sheep and goats. 
ABNER: Yea! For this is a great day before the Lord in 

Israel! And we will sprinkle the spoil with the sacrifice. 
SAUL: Hast thou heard the song of the women? Nay, near- 
est thou? Hark! 

In the distance is heard the singing. 
MERAB: Saul in thousands slew his men. 
MICHAL: David slew his thousands ten. 
ALL: Lu-lu-lu-li-lu-lu-a! A li-lu-lu-a-li-lu! 

SAUL: May such mouths be bruised! 
ABNER: Nay! Nay! King Saul! In this hour! 
SAUL: In this instant! They have ascribed to David ten 

thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands. 

And what can he have more, but the Kingdom? 
ABNER: Nay, nay, O Saul! It is but the light words of 

women. Ay, let them sing! For as vain women they fancy 

naught but that head of Goliath, with the round stone 

sunken in. But the King is King. 
SAUL: Shall that shepherd oust me, even from the mouths 

of the maidens? 
ABNER: Nay, this is folly, and less than kingly. 

LAWRENCE: David 217 

MICHAL (followed by MERAB running round the KING 
with their tambourines) : Lu-li-lu-lu-a-li-lu! A-li-lu-lu-a-lk 

SAUL: Away! 

MERAB ANI> MICHAL: Lu-lu-lu-lu! Saul, the King! Lu-lu-lu- 
lu-al-li-lu-lu! Saul! Saul! Lu-lu-lu! Saul! Saul! Lu-lulu! 

SAUL: Peace, I say! 

Exit, passing into house. 

MERAB AND MICHAL: Jonathan and David. Lu-lu-lu! Here 
they come, the friendly two! Lu-lu-lu-lu-a-li-lu! Lu-lu-a- 

MERAB: Jonathan is kingly bred. 

MICHAL: David took Goliath's head. 

BOTH: Jonathan and David! Lu-lu-lu! a! Here they come 
the loving two-a! 

MICHAL (to DAVID) : Where is the giant's head? 

DAVCD: It is in Jerusalem of Judah, O Maiden. 

MICHAL: Why did you not bring it here, that we might see 

DAVID: I am of Judah, and they would have it there. 

MICHAL: But Saul is King, and could have it where h$ 

DAVID: Saul would leave it in Jerusalem. 

MICHAL: And the armour, and the greaves of brass, and 
the shield, and the sword? The coat of brass that weighs 
five thousand shekels. Where are these? I want to see 
them, O David! 

DAVID: The armour is in my father's house, and in Jeru- 
salem. The sword lies before the Lord in Ramah, with 
Samuel, O Maiden! 

MICHAL: Why take it to Samuel? Do you not know my 
name, O David! 

DAVID: You are MichaL 

MICHAL: I am she. And this is Merab! Look at him, Merab, 
and see if you like him. Is it true, O my brother Jona- 
than, that the King will give Merab his daughter to the 
skyer of the Philistine? 

JONATHAN: He hath said so. 


MICHAL: To us lie has not said one word. O Merabl Look 

at thy man! How likest thou him? 
MERAB: I will not look at him yet. 
MICHAL: Oh, thou! Thou hast spied out every hair in his 

beard. Is he not fox-red? I think the beard pf a man 

should be raven-black. O Merab, thy David is very 


MERAB: Nay! He is not yet mine, nor I his. 
MICHAL: Thou wouldst it were so! Aiee! Thou art hasty and 

beforehand with the red youth! Shame on thee, that art 

a King's daughter. 

MERAB: Nay, now, I have said naught. 
MICHAL: Thou shouldst have said somewhat, to cover thy 

unmaidenly longing. O David, this Merab sighs in her 

soul for you. How like you her? 
DAVID: She is fair and a modest maiden. 
MICHAL: As am not I! Oh, but I am Saul's very daughter, 

and a hawk that soars king high. And what has David 

brought, to lay before Merab? 
DAVID: All I have is laid before the King. 
MICHAL: But naught of the Philistine Goliath! All that 

spoil you took home to your father's house, as the fox 

brings his prey to his own hole. Ah, David, the wary one! 
MERAB: It was his own! Where should he take it, but to 

his father's house! 
MICHAL: Is not the King his father! Why should he not 

bring it here? Is Merab not worth the bride-money? 
JONATHAN: Oh, peace! Thou art all mischief, Michal. Thou 

shouldst be married to a Philistine, for his undoing. 
MICHAL: Ayeee! This David has come back to trouble us! 

Why didst not thou sky the Philistine, Jonathan? 
JONATHAN: Peace! Let us go in, David! These maidens are 

too forward. My father did never succeed in ruling his 

household of women. 
MICHAL: Ayee! His household of women! Thou, Jonathan! 

Go in, David! They shall not put poison in your meat. 
As DAVID and JONATHAN depart she sings: 
Empty-handed David came! 

LAWRENCE: David 2, 19 

Merab saw him full of shame! 
Lu-lu-lu-lu-lu-H-lu! A-li-lu-a! A-li-lu! 
Empty-handed David came! 
Merab saw him full of shame! 
A-li-lu-lu! A-li-lu-li! Li-lu-li-lu-a! 

(To MERAB.) So he has come! 

MERAB: Even so! Yet his brow says: Have a care! 

MICHAL: Have a care, Merab! Have a care, David! Have a 
care, Michal! Have a care, Jonathan! Have a care, King 
Saul! I do not like his brow, it is too studied. 

MERAB: Nay, it is manly, and grave. 

MICHAL: Ayee! Ayee! He did not laugh. He did not once 
laugh. It will not be well, Merab. 

MERAB: What will not be well? 

MICHAL: The King will not give thee to him. 

MERAB: But the King hath spoken. 

MICHAL: I have read the brow of Saul, and it was black. I 
have looked at David's brow, and it was heavy and 
secret. The King will not give thee to David, Merab. I 
know it, I know it. 

MERAB: A King should keep his word! 

MICHAL: What! Art thou hot with anger against thy father, 
lest he give thee not to this shepherd boy! David hath 
cast a spell on Merab! The ruddy herdsman out of 
Judah has thrown a net over the King's daughter! Oh, 
poor quail! poor partridge! 

MERAB: I am not caught! I am not! 

MICHAL: Thou art caught! And not by some chieftain, nor 
by some owner of great herds. But by a sheep-tending 
boy! Oh, fie! 

MERAB: Nay, I do not want him, 

MICHAL: Yea, thou dost. And if some man of great sub- 
stance Came, and my father would give thee to him, 
thou wouldst cry: Nay! Nay! Nay! I am Davitfs! 

MERAB: Never would I cry this that thou sayest. For I am 
not his. And am I not first daughter of the King! 

MICHAL: Thou waitest and pantest after that red David. 
And he will climb high in the sight of Israel, upon the 


mound of Merab. I tell thee, lie is a climber who would 
climb above our heads. 
MERAB: Above my head he shall not climb. 

Empty-handed David came! 
Merab saw him full of shame! 
Lu-li-lu-li! Lu-li-lu-lu-li! A-li-lu-lu! 


SCENE xi: Room in KING'S house at Gilgal. Bare adobe room, 
mats on the floor. SAUL, ABNER and ADRIEL reclining around 
a little open hearth. 

SAUL: And how is the slayer of Goliath looked upon, in 

ABNER: Yea! he is a wise young man, he brings no disfavour 

upon himself. 
SAUL: May Baal finish him! And how looks he on the King's 

daughter? Does he eye Merab as a fox eyes a young 

ABNER: Nay, he is wise, a young man full of discretion, 

watching well his steps. 
SAUL: Ay is he! Smooth-faced and soft-footed, as Joseph in 

the house of Pharaoh! I tell you, I like not this weasel. 
ABNER: Nay, he is no enemy of the King. His eyes are 

clear, with the light of the Lord God. But he is alone and 

shy, as a rude young shepherd. 
SAUL: Thou art his uncle, surely. I tell you, I will send him 

back to Bethlehem, to the sheep-cotes. 
ABNER: He is grown beyond the sheep-cotes, O King! And 

wilt thou send him back into Judah, while the giant's 

head still blackens above the gates of Jerusalem, and 

David is darling of all Judea, in the hearts of the men of 

LAWREXCE: David 2,2,1 

Judah? Better keep him here, where the King alone can 
honour him. 

SAUL: I know him! Should I send him away, he will have 
them name him King in Judah, and Samuel will give 
testimony. Yea, when he carried the sword of the giant 
before Samuel in Ramah, did not Samuel bless him in 
the sight of all men, saying: Thou art chosen of the 
Lord out of Israel! 

ABNER: If it be so, O King, we cannot put back the sun in 
heaven. Yet is David faithful servant to the King, and 
full of love for Jonathan. I find in him no presumption. 

SAUL: My household is against me. Ah, this is the curse 
upon me! My children love my chief enemy, him who 
hath supplanted me before the Lord. Yea, my children 
pay court to David, and my daughters languish for him. 
But he shall not rise upon me. I say he shall not! Nor 
shall he marry my elder daughter Merab. Wellah, and he 
shall not. 

ABNER: Yet Saul has given his word. 

SAUL: And Saul shall take it back. What man should keep 
his word with a supplanter? Abner, have we not ap- 
pointed him captain over a thousand? Captain over a 
thousand in the army of Saul shall he be. Oh yes! And 
to-morrow I will say to him, I will even say it again: 
Behold Merab, my elder daughter, her will I give thee 
to wife: only be thou valiant for me, and fight the Lord's 
battles. And then he shall go forth with his thousand 
again, quickly, against the Philistine. Let not my hand 
be upon him, but let the hand of the Philistine be upon 

ABNER: But if the Lord be with him, and he fall not, but 
come back once more with spoil, wilt thou then with- 
hold the hand of thy daughter Merab from him? 

SAUL: He shall not have her! Nay, I know not. When the 
day comes that he returns back to this house, then Saul 
will answer him. We will not tempt the Thunderer. 

ADRIEL: I have it sure, from Eliab his brother, that David 
was anointed by Samuel to be King over Israel, secretly, 


in the house of his father Jesse. And Eliab liketh not 
the youngster, saying he was ever heady, naughty- 
hearted, full of a youngling's naughty pride, and the con- 
ceit of the father's favourite. Now the tale is out in 
Judah, and many would have him King, saying: Why 
should Judah look to a King out of Benjamin? Is there 
no horn-anointed among the men of Judah? 

SAUL: So is it! So is it! To-morrow he shall go forth with 
his men, and the hand of the Philistine shall be upon 
him. I will not lift my hand upon him, for fear of the 
Dark! Yet where is he now? What is he conniving at 
this moment, in the house of Saul? Go, see what he is 
about, O Adriel! 

ABNER: It is a bad thing, O Saul, to let this jealous worm 
eat into a King's heart, that always was noble! 

SAUL: I cannot help it. The worm is there. And since 
the women sang nay, in all the cities they sang the 
same Saul hath slain his thousands, but David hath 
slain his tens of thousands > it gnaws me, Abner, and I 
feel I am no longer King in the sight of the Lord. 

ABNER: Canst thou not speak with the Morning Wind? And 
if the Lord of Days have chosen David to be king over 
Israel after thee, canst thou not answer the great Wish of 
the Heavens, saying: It is well! 

SAUL: I cannot! I cannot deny my house, and my blood! 
I cannot cast down my own seed, for the seed of Jesse 
to sprout. I cannot! Wellah, and I will not! Speak not to 
me of this! 

ABNER: Yet wert thou chosen of God! And always hast thou 
been a man of the bright horn. 

SAUL: Yea, and am I brought to this pass! Yea, and must I 
cut myself off? Almost will I rather be a man of Belial, 
and call on Baal. Surely Astaroth were better to me. For 
I have kept the faith, yet must I cut myself off! Wellah, 
is there no other strength? 

ABNER: I know not. Thou knowest, who hast heard the 
thunder and hast felt the Thunderer. 

LAWRENCE: David 223 

SAUL: I hear It no more, for It hath closed Its lips to me. 
But other voices hear I in the night other voices! 

Enter ADRIEL. 

SAUL: Well, and where is he? 
ADRIEL: He is sitting in the house of Jonathan, and they 

make music together, so the women listen. 
SAUL: Ah! And sings the bird of Bethlehem? What songs 


ADRIEL: Even to the Lord: How excellent is thy name in att 
the earth. And men and women listen diligently, to 
learn as it droppeth from his mouth. And Jonathan, for 
very love, writes it down. 
SAUL: Nay, canst thou not remember? 
ADRIEL: I cannot, O King. Hark! 

A man is heard in the courtyard, singing loud and 
manly, from Psalm viii. 
Voice of singer: What is man, that thou art mindful of 

him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? 
For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, 

and hast crowned him with glory and honour. 
Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of 

thy hands; 

Thou hast put all things under his feet: 
All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; 
The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatso- 
ever passeth through the paths of the seas. 

Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the 


SAUL listens moodily. 

SAUL: I hear him! Yea, they sing after him! He will set all 
Israel singing after him, and all men in all lands. All the 
world will sing what he sings. And I shall be dumb. Yea, 

1 shall be dumb, and the lips of my house will be dust! 
What, am I naught; and set at naught! What do I know? 
Shall I go down into the grave silenced, and like one 
mute with ignorance? Ha! Ha! There are wells in the 
desert that go deep. And even there we water the sheep, 
when our faces are blackened with drought. Hath Saul 


no sight into the unseen? Ha, look! look down the deep 
well, how the black water is troubled. Yea, and I see 
death, death, death! I see a sword through my body, and 
the body of Jonathan gaping wounds, and my son 
Abinadab, and my son Melchishua, and my son Ish- 
bosheth lying in blood. Nay, I see the small pale issue 
of my house creeping on broken feet, as a lamed worm. 
Yea, yea, what an end! And the seed of David rising up 
and covering the earth, many, with a glory about them, 
and the wind of the Lord in their hair. Nay, then they 
wheel against the sun, and are dark, like the locusts 
sweeping in heaven, Eke the pillars of locusts moving, 
yea, as a tall, dark cloud upon the land. Till they drop 
in drops of blood, like thunder-rain, and the land is red. 
Then they turn again into the glory of the Lord. Yea, 
as a flight of birds down all the ages, now shedding 
sun and the gleam of God, now shedding shadow and 
the fall of blood, now as quails chirping in the spring, 
now as the locust pillars of cloud, as death upon the 
land. And they thicken and thicken, till the world's air 
grates and clicks as with the wings of locusts. And man 
is his own devourer, and the Deep turns away, without 
wish to look on birr) further. So the earth is a desert, and 
manless, yet covered with houses and iron. Yea, David, 
the pits are digged even under the feet of thy God, and 
thy God shall fall in. Oh, their God shall fall into the 
pit, that the sons of David have digged. Oh, men can 
dig a pit for the most high God, and He falls in as they 
say of the huge elephant in the lands beyond the desert. 
And the world shall be Godless, there shall no God walk 
on the mountains, no whirlwind shall stir like a heart in 
the deeps of the blue firmament. And God shall be gone 
from the world. Only men there shall be, in myriads, like 
locusts, clicking and grating upon one another, and 
crawling over one another. The smell of them shall be as 
smoke, but it shall rise up into the air, without finding 
the nostrils of God. For God shall be gone! gone! gone! 
And men shall inherit the earth! Yea, like locusts and 

LAWRENCE: David 2,2,5 

whirring on wings like locusts. To this the seed of David 
shall come, and this is their triumph, when the house of 
Saul has been swept up, long, long ago into the body of 
God. Godless the world! Godless the men in myriads 
even like locusts. No God in the air! No God on the 
mountains! Even out of the deeps of the sky they lured 
Him, into their pit! So the world is empty of God, empty, 
empty, like a blown egg-shell bunged with wax and 
floating meaningless. God shall fall Himself into the pit 
these men shall dig for Him! Ha! Ha! O David's Al- 
mighty, even He knows not the depth of the dark wells 
in the desert, where men may still water their flocks! Ha! 
Ha! Lord God of Judah, thou peepest not down the pit 
where the black water twinkles. Ha-ha! Saul peeps and 
sees the fate that wells up from below! Ha! Lo! Death 
and blood, what is this Almighty that sees not the pits 
digged for Him by the children of men? Ha! Ha! saith 
Saul. Look in the black mirror! Ha! 

ABNER: It is not well, O King, 

SAUL: Ha! It is very well! It is very well. Let them lay 
their trap for his Lord. For his Lord will fall into it. 
Aha! Aha! Give them length of days. I do not ask it. 

ABNER: My lord, the darkness is over your heart. 

SAUL: And over my eyes! Ha! And on the swim of the dark 
are visions. What? Are the demons not under all the 
works of God, as worms are under the roots of the vine? 
Look! (Stares transfixed.) 

ABNER (to ADRIEL) : Go quickly and bring Jonathan, and 
David, for the King is prophesying with the spirit of 
the under-earth. 

SAUL: The room is full of demons! I have known it filled 
with the breath of Might. The glisten of the dark, old 
movers that first got the world into shape. They say the 
god was once as a beetle, but vast and dark. And he 
rolled the earth into a ball, and laid his seed in it. Then 
he crept clicking away to hide for ever, while the earth 
brought forth after him. He went down a deep pit. The- 


gods do not die. They go down a deep pit, and live on 
at the bottom of oblivion. And when a man staggers, he 
stumbles and falls backwards down the pit down the 
pit, down through oblivion after oblivion, where the gods 
of the past live on. And they laugh, and eat his soul. 
And the time will come when even the God of David 
will fall down the endless pit, till He passes the place 
where the serpent lies living under oblivion, on to where 
the Beetle of the Beginning lives under many layers of 
dark. I see it! Aha! I see the Beetle clambering upon 
Him, Who was the Lord of Hosts. 
ABNER: I cannot hear thee, O King. I would e'en be deaf 

in this hour. Peace! I bid thee! Peace! 
SAUL: What? Did someone speak within the shadow? 
Come thou forth then from the shadow, if thou hast 
aught to say. 

ABNER: I say Peace! Peace, thou! Say thou no more! 
SAUL: What? Peace! saith the voice? And what is peace? 
Hath the Beetle of the Beginning peace, under many 
layers of oblivion? Or the great serpent coiled for ever, is 
he coiled upon his own peace? 


SAUL (continuing) : I tell you, till the end of time, unrest 
will come upon the serpent of serpents, and he will lift 
his head and hiss against the children of men thus will 
he hiss! (SAUL hisses.) Hiss! Hiss! and he will strike the 

children of men thus 

SAUL strikes as a serpent, and with his javelin. 
j ONATHAN: Father, shall we sound music? 
SAUL: Father! Who is father? Know ye not, the vast, dark, 
shining beetle was the first father, who laid his eggs in 
a dead ball of the dust of forgotten gods? And out of the 
egg the serpent of gold, who was great Lord of Life, 
came forth. 
JONATHAN (to DAVID) : Now sing, that peace may come 

back upon us. 
DAVID: If he heed me. (Sings Psalm viii.) 

LAWRENCE: David 2,2,7 

SAUL meanwhile raves then sinks into gloom, star- 
ing fixedly. 

SAUL; And the serpent was golden with life. But he said 
to himself: I will lay an egg. So he laid the egg of his 
own undoing. And the Great White Bird came forth. 
Some say a dove, some say an eagle, some say a swan, 
some say a goose all say a bird. And the serpent of 
the sun's life turned dark, as all the gods turn dark. Yea, 
and the Great White Bird beat wings in the firmament, 
so the dragon slid into a hole, the serpent crawled out of 
sight, down to the oblivion of oblivion, yet above the 
oblivion of the Beetle. 

DAVID meanwhile sings. 

SAUL (striking with his hands as if at a wasp) : Na-a! But 
What is this sound that comes like a hornet at my ears, 
and will not let me prophesy! Away! Away! 

JONATHAN: My Father, it is a new song to sing. 

SAUL: What art thou, Jonathan, thy father's enemy? 

JONATHAN: Listen to the new song, Father. 

SAUL: What? (Hearkens a moment.) I will not hear it! 
What! I say I will not hear it! Trouble me not, nor stop 
the dark fountain of my prophecy! I will not hearken! 

DAVID (singing) : When I consider thy heavens, the work 
of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast 

SAUL: What! art thou there, thou brown hornet, thou stealer 
of life's honey! What, shalt thou stay in my sight! (Sud- 
denly hurls his javelin at DAVID. DAVID leaps aside.) 

JONATHAN: My Father, this shall not be! 

SAUL: What! art thou there? Bring me here my dart. 

JONATHAN (picking up the javelin) : Look then at the hole 
in the wall! Is not that a reproach against the house of 
the King for ever? (Gives the javelin to SAUL.) 

SAUL sinks into moody silence, staring. DAVTD begins 
to sing very softly. 

DAVID (singing) : O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy 


name in all the earth! Who hast set thy glory above the 

SAUL very softly, with tJie soft, swift suddenness of 
a great cat, leaps round and hurls the javelin again. 
DAVID as swiftly leaps aside. 
SAUL: I will smite David even to the wall. 
ABNER: Go hence, David! Swiftly hence! 
JONATHAN: Twice, Father! 

Exit DAVID. 
ABNER (seizing javelin): The evil spirits upon thee have 

done this. O Saul! They have not prevailed. 
SAUL: Have I pierced him? Is he down with the dead? 

Can we lay him in the sides of the pit? 
ABNER: He is not dead! He is gone forth. 
SAUL (wearily) : Gone forth! Ay! He is gone forth! What, 

did I seek to slay him? 
JONATHAN: Yea, twice. 

SAUL: It was out of myself. I was then beside myself. 
ABNER: Yea, the evil spirits were upon thee. 
SAUL: Tell him, O Jonathan, Saul seeks not his Me. Nay! 
Nay! Do I not love him, even as thou dost, but more, 
even as a father! O David! David! I have loved thee. Oh, 
I have loved thee and the Lord in thee. And now the 
evil days have come upon me, and I have thrown the 
dart against thee, and against the Lord. I am a man 
given over to trouble, and tossed between two winds. Lo, 
how can I walk before the faces of men! (Covers his face 
with his mantle.) 
ABNER: The evil spirits have left him. Peace comes with 


JONATHAN: And only then. 
SAUL: Bring David hither to me, for I will make my peace 

with him, for my heart is very sore. 
JONATHAN: Verily, shall it be peace? 

SAUL: Yea! For I fear the Night. (Exit JONATHAN.) Surely 
now will David publish it in Judah: Saul hath lifted his 
hand to slay me. 
ABNER: He will not publish it in Judah. 

LAWHENCE: David 229 

SAUL: And wherefore not? Is he not as the apple of their 
eyes to the men of Judah, who love not over-much the 
tribe of Benjamin? 

ABNER: But David is the King's man. 

SAUL: Ah, would it were verily so. 

DAVTJD: The Lord strengthen the King! 

SAUL: Ah, David, my son, come, and come in peace. For 
my hands are bare and my heart is washed and my eyes 
are no longer deluded. May the Lord be with thee, 
David, and hold it not against me, what I have done. 
Spirits of the earth possess me, and I am not my own. 
Thou shalt not cherish it in thy heart, what Saul did 
against thee, in the season of his bewilderment? 

DAVID: Naught has the King done against me. And the 
heart of thy servant knoweth no ill. 

SAUL: Hatest thou me not, David? 

DAVID: Let the word be unspoken, my Father! 

SAUL: Ah, David! David! Why can I not love thee un- 
troubled? But I will right the wrong. Thou shalt 
henceforth be captain of the thousand of Hebron, and 
dwell in thine own house, by the men. And behold, 
Merab, my elder daughter, I will give thee to wife. 

DAVTD: Who am I, and what is my life, or my father's 
family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the King? 

SAUL: Nay, thou art of mine own heart, and the Lord is 
thy great strength. Only be valiant for me, and fight the 
Lord's battles. 

DAVID: All my life is the King's, and my strength is to serve. 

SAUL: It shall be well. And with thy thousand shalt thou 
succour Israel. 



SCENE xn: The well at Gilgal: MAIDENS coming with water- 
jars. Two HERDSMEN fitting the trough one below, at the 
water y one on the steps. They swing the leathern bucket 
back and forth with a rough chant: the lower shepherd 
swinging the load to the upper, who swings it to the trough,, 
and hands it back. DAVID approaching. 

IST HERDSMAN: Ya! David missed her. 

2ND HERDSMAN: Let him get her sister Oh! Oh-oh-h! 

IST HERDSMAN: Ya! David missed her. 

2ND HERDSMAN: Let him get her sister Oh-h-h-h! (Con- 
tmue several times.) 

IST MAIDEN: How long, O Herdsman! 

2ND HERDSMAN: Ho-o-o! Enough! 

IST HERDSMAN (coming up) : Ya! David missed her! 
MAIDENS run away from him. 

IST MAIDEN: Ho, thou! Seest thou not David? 

IST HERDSMAN: Yea, he is there! Ho! David! And hast thou 
missed her? 

MAIDENS laugh. 

DAVID: What sayest thou, O Man? 

IST HERDSMAN: Thou hast missed her say! am I not 

DAVID: And whom have I missed? 

IST HERDSMAN: Wellah! And knowest thou not? 

DAVID: Nay! 

IST HERDSMAN: Wellah! But Merab, the King's elder daugh- 
ter! Wellah! We feasted her week half a moon ago, 
whilst you and your men were gone forth against the 
Philistines. Wellah, man, and didst thou not know? 

DAVID: Sayest thou so? 

IST HERDSMAN: Wellah! And is it not so? Say, Maidens, 

hath not Adriel the Meholathite got Merab, Saul's 

daughter, to wife? And hath he not spent his week with 

her? Wellah, thou art ousted from that bed, O David. 

DAVID: And hath the King given his daughter Merab unto 

LAWRENCE: David 231 

Adriel the Meholathite! Wellah, shall he not do as he 
choose, with his own? 

IST HERDSMAN: Ay, wellah, shall he! But thou wert prom- 
ised. And in thy stead, another hath gone in unto her. Is 
it not so, O Maidens? Sleeps not Merab in the tent of 
Adriel the Meholathite? 

IST MAIDEN: Yea, the King hath married her to the man. 

DAVID: And sings she as she shakes his butter-skin? 

IST MAIDEN: Nay, as yet she sings not. But if David sits 
here beneath the tree, she will come with her jar. Nay, 
is that not Adriel the Meholathite himself, coming forth? 
O Herdsman, drive not the cattle as yet to the drinking 

Goes down and -fills her pitcher. 

2ND MAIDEN: Will David sit awhile beneath the tree? 

DAVTD: Yea! 

2ND MAIDEN: Then shall Michal, daughter of Saul, come 
hither with her water-jar. Is it well, O David? 

DAVID: Yea, it is very well. 

MAIDEN goes down with her pitcher. 

ADRIEL: Ha, David! And art thou returned? I have not seen 
thee before the King. 

DAVID: I returned but yesterday. And I saw the King at the 
dawn. Now art thou become a great man in Israel, O 
Adriel, and son-in-law to the King. How fareth Merab 
in the tents of the Meholathite? 

ADRIEL: Yea, and blithely. And to-morrow even in the 
early day will I set her on an ass, and we will get us to 
my father's house. For he is old, and the charge of bis 
possessions is heavy upon him, and he fain would see 
his daughter Merab, who shall bring him sons sons to 
gladden him. And she shall have her hand-maidens about 
her, and her store-barns of wool, and corn, and clotted 
figs, and bunches of raisins, all her wealth she shall see in 

DAVID: May she live content, and bring thee sons, even 
males of worth. 

ADRIEL: The Lord grant itl And thou hast come home 


once more with spoil! How thou chastenest die Philistine! 
Yea, and behold, the King hath delight in thee, and all 
his servants love thee! Lo! I am the King's son-in-law, 
of Merab. Now, therefore, be thou also the King's son- 
in-law, for there is yet a daughter. 

DAVID: Seemeth it to you a light thing, to be the King's son- 
in-law, seeing that I am a poor man, and lightly es- 

ADRIEL: By my beard, the King delighteth in thee, and all 
his servants love thee. There is no man in Israel more 
fit to take a daughter of the King. 

DAVID: Yea, there be men of mighty substance such as thou, 
whose flocks have not been counted, and who send men- 
at-arms pricking with iron lance-points, to the King's 
service. But what have I, save the bare hands and heart 
of a faithful servant? 

ADRIEL: Nay, thy name is high among men. But lo! here 
cometh Saul, as he hath promised. He is coming out to 
my tents. I will go forward to bring him in. Come thou? 

DAVID: Nay! Leave me here. 

1ST HERDSMAN: I have heard the mouth of Adriel, O David! 
Surely he is the King's listener. 

DAVID: And thou! Who made thee a listener? 

1ST HERDSMAN: Nay, I must guard the water-troughs till 
the cattle have drunk. Adriel hath flocks and men- 
servants, but David Bath the Lord, and the hearts of all 
Israel! Better a brave and bright man, with a face that 
shines to the heart, than a great owner of troops and 
herds, who struts with arms akimbo. As I plant this 
driving-stick in the soft earth, so hath the Lord planted 
David in the heart of Israel. I say: Stick, may thou 
flourish! May thou bud and blossom and be a great tree. 
For thou art not as the javelin of Saul, levelled at David's 

DAVID: Peace! Saul cometh. 

IST HERDSMAN: Wellah! And I will go down to the water. 
Goes to the well. 

LAWBENCE: David 233 

DAVID: The Lord strengthen the King. 

SAUL: Art thou my son, David? Yea, David, have they told 

thee, I have married my daughter Merab unto Adriel 

the Meholathite, even to him who stands here? 
DAVID: Yea, O Saul! They told me the King's pleasure. May 

the Lord bless thy house for ever! 
SAUL: Have I not promised my daughter unto thee? But my 

servants tell me the heart of Michal goes forth wishful 

unto David. Say now, is she fair in thine eyes? 
DAVID: Yea! Yea, O King, yea! 
SAUL: When the new moon shows her tender horns above 

the west, thou shalt this day be my son-in-law in one of 

the twain. 

DAVID: Let thy servant but serve the King! 
SAUL: Yea, an thou serve me, it shall be on the day of the 

new moon. 

DAVID: Yea, will I serve without fail. 
SAUL: So be it! 

Exit With ADRIEL. 

HERDSMAN (coming up) : Now is David the richest man in 

Israel in promises! Wilt thou not sell me a King's 

promise, for this my camel-stick? 
DAVID: It is well. 
HERDSMAN: Sayest thou? Then it is a bargain? WeHah! Take 

my stick. It is worth the word of a King. 
DAVID: Peace! 

HERDSMAN: Thou meanest war! 
DAVID: How? 
HERDSMAN: If thou get her, it is war. If thou get her not, 

it is more war. Sayest thou peace? 
MADDENS (running) : Oh, master David, hath Saul passed 

with Adriel? 
HERDSMAN: They have passed, letting fall promises as the 

goat droppeth pills. 
DAVID: Peace, O ManI 
MAIDEN: Oh, master David, shall Michal come forth to fill 

her water-jar? For Merab is setting meats before the 


King, in the booth of Adriel. Oh, David, shall Michal 
bring her jar to the well? 

HERDSMAN: Ay, wellah, shall she! And I will hold back the 
cattle this little while, for I hear their voices. 

DAVID: Run back quickly and let her come. 

DAVID (alone): Lord! dost Thou send this maiden to me? 
My entrails strain in me, for Michal, daughter of Saul. 
Lord God of my Salvation, my wanting of this maiden 
is next to my wanting Thee. My body is a strong-strung 
bow. Lord, let me shoot mine arrow unto this mark. Thou 
fillest me with desire as with thunder, Thy lightning is 
in my loins, and my breast like a cloud leans forward for 
her. Lord! Lord! Thy left hand is about her middle, and 
Thy right hand grasps my life. So Thou bringest us to- 
gether in Thy secret self, that it may be fulfilled for Thee 
in us. Lord of the Great Wish, I will not let her go. 

MICHAL (entering covering her chin and throat with her 
kerchief) : Wilt thou let me pass to fill my jar, O thou 

DAVID: Come, Michal, and I will fill thy jar. 

She comes forward he takes her jar and goes down 
the steps. Returning he sets it on the ground at his 

MICHAL: Oh, David! And art thou still unslain? 

DAVID: As the Lord wills, no man shall slay me. And livest 
thou in thine house lonely, without thy sister Merab? 

MICHAL: Is thy heart sore in thee, David, that thou hast 
lost Merab? Her heart is gentle, and she sighed for thee. 
But e'en she obeyed. 

DAVID: She hath a man of more substance than David. And 
my heart is very glad on her account. 

MICHAL: It is well. 

DAVID: O Michal, didst thou come willingly to the well, 
when the maiden told thee I waited here? 

MICHAL: Yea, willingly. 

LAWRENCE: David 235 

DAVID: O Michal, my heart runs before me, when it sees 
thee far off, like one eager to come to his own place. Oh, 
thou with the great eyes of the wilderness, shall my 
heart leap to thee, and shall thou not say Nay! to it? 

MICHAL: What said my father, O David, when he passed? 

DAVID: He said: when the new moon showeth her horns in 
the west, on this day shalt thou surely be my son-in-law 
of one of the twain, 

MICHAL: Yea, and is thy heart uplifted, to be a King's son- 

DAVID: So she be Michal, my body is uplifted like the sail 
of a ship when the wind arouses. 

MICHAL: Nay, thou art a seeker of honours! Merab had 
been just as well to thy liking. 

DAVID: Ah, no! Ah! Ah! Merab is gentle and good, and my 
heart softened with kindness for her, as a man unto a 
woman. But thou art like the rising moon, that maketh 
the limbs of the mountain glisten, O Michal, we twain 
are upon the hillsides of the Lord, and surely He will 
bring our strength together! 

MICHAL: And if the Lord God say thee nay! 

DAVID: He will not. He hath thy life in His left hand, and 
my life He holdeth in His right hand. And surely He 
will lay us together in the secret of His desire, and I 
shall come unto thee by the Lord's doing. 

MICHAL: But if He say thee nay, thou wilt let me go. 

DAVID: Thou knowest not the Lord my God. The flame He 
kindles He will not blow out. He is not yea-and-nay! 
But my Lord my God loveth a bright desire and yearneth 
over a great Wish, for its fulfillment. Oh, the Lord my 
God is a glowing flame and he loveth all things that do 
glow. So loves He thee, Michal, O woman before me, 
for thou glowest like a young tree in full flower, with 
flowers of gold and scarlet, and dark leaves. O thou 
young pomegranate tree, flowers and fruit together show 
on thy body. And flame calleth to flame, for flame is the 
body of God, like flowers of flame. Oh, and God is a 


great Wish, and a great Desire, and a pure flame for ever. 
Thou art kindled of the Lord, O Michal, and He will not 
let thee go. 

MICHAL: Yet the Lord Himself will not marry me. 

DAVID: I will many thee, for the Lord hath kindled me 
unto thee, and hath said: Go to her, for the fruits of the 
pomegranate are ripe. 

MICHAL: Will thou not seek me for thyself? 

DAVID: Yea, for my very self; and for my very self; and 
for the Lord's own self in me. 

MICHAX: Ever thou puttest the Lord between me and thee. 

DAVID: The Lord is a sweet wind that fills thy bosom and 
thy belly as the sail of a ship; so I see thee sailing deli- 
cately towards me, borne onwards by my Lord. 

MICHAL: Oh, David, would the new moon were come! 
For I fear my father, and I misdoubt his hindrances. 

DAVID: Thinkest thou, he would marry thee away, as 

MICHAL: Nay, but thou must make a song, and sing it be- 
fore all Israel, that Michal is thine by the King's prom- 
ise, no man shall look on her but David. 

DAVTD: Yea! I will make a song. And yea, I will not let 
thee go. Thou shalt come to me as wife, and I will know 
thee, and thou shall lie in my bosom. Yea! As the Lord 

MICHAL: And as the Lord liveth, not even my father shall 
constrain me, to give me to another man, before the 
new moon showeth her horns. 

DAVTD: It is well, O Michal! O Michal, wife of David, thou 
shalt sleep in my tent! In the tent of the men of war, be- 
side the sword of David, Michal sleeps, and the hand of 
David is upon her hip. He has sealed her with his seal, 
and Michal of David is her name, and kingdoms shall he 
bring down to her. Michal of David shall blossom in the 
land, her name shall blossom in the mouths of soldiers 
as the rose of Sharon after rain. And men-at-arms shall 
shout her name, like a victory cry it shall be heard. And 

LAWRENCE: David 237 

she shall be known in the land but as Michal of David; 

blossom of God, keeper of David's nakedness. 
MICHAL: They shall not reive me from thee. I see men 


DAVID: Wilt thou go? 
MICHAL: I shall call my maidens. So ho! So ho! ( Waves the 

end of her kerchief.) 
HERDSMAN (entering): There are two captains, servants of 

Saul, coming even now from the booths of the Mehola- 

thite, where the King is. 
MICHAL: Yea, let them come, and we will hear the words 

they put forth. 
HERDSMAN: And the cattle are being driven round by the 

apricot garden. They will soon be here. 
DAVID: In two words we shall have the mind of Saul from 

these captains. 

MAIDENS (entering running): O Michal, men are ap- 
MICHAL: Fill you your jar, and with one ear let us listen. 

David stays under the tree. 
IST MAIDEN: Stars are in thine eyes, O Michal, like a 

love night! 
2ND MAIDEN: Oh! and the perfume of a new-opened 

flower! What sweetness has she heard? 
3RD MAIDEN: Oh, say! what words like honey, and like new 

sweet dates of the Oasis, hath David the singer said to 

Michal? Oh, that we might have heard! 
IST CAPTAIN (entering) : David is still at the well? 
DAVID: Yea, after war and foray, happy is the homely pas- 
sage at the well? 
2ND CAPTAIN: Wilt thou return to the King's house with us, 

and we will tell thee what is toward: even the words of 

Saul concerning thee. 

DAVID: Say on! For I must in the other way. 
IST CAPTAIN: The King delighteth in thee more than in 

any man of Israel. For no man layeth low the King's 

enemies like David, in the land. 


DAVID: Sayest thou so? 

IST CAPTAIN: Yea! And when the new moon shows her 
horns shalt thou be son-in-law to Saul, in his daughter 

DAVID: As the Lord, and the King, willeth. Saul hath said 
as much to me, even now. Yet I am a poor man, and 
how shall the King at last accept me? 

2ND CAPTAIN: This too hath Saul considered. And he hath 
said: Tell my son David, the King desireth not any bride- 
money, nay, neither sheep nor oxen nor asses, nor any 
substance of his. But an hundred foreskins of the Philis- 
tines shall he bring to the King, to be avenged of his 

IST CAPTAIN: So said the King: Before the new moon, as 
she cometh, sets on her first night, shall David bring the 
foreskins of an hundred Philistines unto Saul. And that 
night shall Saul deliver Michal, his daughter, unto David, 
and she shall sleep in David's house. 

2ND CAPTAIN: And Israel shall be avenged of her enemies. 

DAVID: Hath the King verily sent this message to me? 

IST CAPTAIN: Yea, he hath sent it, and a ring from his own 
hand. Lo! here it is! For said Saul: Let David keep this 
for a pledge between me and him, in this matter. And 
when he returneth, he shall give me my ring again, and 
the foreskins of the Philistine, and I will give him my 
daughter Michal to wife. 

DAVID: Yea! Then I must hence, and call my men, and go 
forth against the Philistine. For while the nights yet are 
moonless, and without point of moon, will I return with 
the tally. 

2ND CAPTAIN: Yea, he is gone on the King's errand. 

IST CAPTAIN: Let him meet what the King wishes. 

HERDSMAN: Yea, I know what ye would have. Ye would slay 
David with the sword of the Philistine. For who keeps 
promise with a dead man! (MICHAL, and MAIDENS edge 
in.) Hast thou heard, O Michal? David is gone forth 

LAWRENCE: David 239 

against the Philistine. For Saul asketh an hundred fore- 
skins of the enemy as thy bride-money. Is it not a tall 

MICHAL: Yea! hath my father done this! 

HERDSMAN: Wellah, hath he! For dead men marry no kings' 
daughters. And the spear of some Philistine shall beget 
death in the body of David. Thy father hath made thee 

MICHAL: Nay, he hath made my name cheap in all Israel. 

2ND HERDSMAN (entering) : Run, Maidens! The cattle are 
coming round the wall, athirst! 

MAIDENS (shouldering their jars) : Away! Away! 


SCENE xm: A room in DAVID'S house in Gilgal. Almost dark. 
DAVID alone, speaking softly: an image in a corner. 

DAVID: Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my medita- 
Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my 

God: for unto thee will I pray. 
My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in 

the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and 

will look up. 
For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: 

neither shall evil dwell with thee. 
The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all 

workers of iniquity, 
Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the Lord will 

abhor the bloody and deceitful man. 
But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude 


of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward 

thy holy temple. 
Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness, because of mine 

enemies; make thy way straight before my face. 
For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward 

part is very wickedness; their throat is an open 

sepulchre: they flatter with their tongue, 
Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own 

counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their 

transgressions; for they have rebelled against thee. 
But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let 

them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest 

them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in 

For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt 

thou compass him, as with a shield. 


Nay, Lord, I am Thy anointed, and Thy son. With the oil 
of anointment hast Thou begotten me. Oh, I am twice 
begotten: of Jesse, and of God! I go forth as a son of 
God, and the Lord is with me. Yet for this they hate 
me, and Saul seeks to destroy me. What can I do, O 
Lord, in this pass? 

Enter MICHAL, through curtain at side, with tray 

and lamp. 

MICHAL: The dawn is at hand. Art thou not faint with this 
long watching before the Lord? Oh! why wilt thou leave 
thy bed and thy pleasure of the night, to speak out into 
the empty, chill hour towards morning? Come then, eat 
of the food which I have brought. 
DAVID: I will not eat now, for my soul still yearns away 

from me. 

MICHAL: Art thou sick? 
DAVID: Yea! My soul is sick. 

DAVID: Nay, thou knowest. Thy father hates me beyond 

LAWRENCE: David 241 

MICHAL: But I love you. 

DAVID (takes her hand) : Yea! 

MICHAL: Is it nothing to you that Michal is your wife and 
loves you? 

DAVID: Verily, it is not nothing. But, Michal, what will 
come to me at last? From moon to moon Saul's anger 
waxes. I shall lose my life at last. And what good shall I 
be to thee then? 

MICHAL: Ah, no! Ah, no! Never shall I see thee dead. First 
thou shalt see me dead. Never, never shall I tear my 
hair for thee, as a widow. It shall not be. If thou go 
hence, it shall not be into death. 

DAVID: Yet death is near. From month to month, since I 
came back with the foreskins of the Philistine, and got 
thee to wife, Saul has hated me more. Michal loves 
David, and Saul's hate waxes greater. Jonathan loves 
David, and the King commands Jonathan, saying: There, 
where thou seest him, there shalt thou sky David. 

MICHAL: My father is no more a man. He is given over 
entirely to evil spirits. But Jonathan will save thee 
through it all. 

DAVID: The Lord will save me. And Jonathan is dearer to 
me than a heart's brother. 

MICHAL: Think, O husband, if Saul hateth thee, how 
Michal and Jonathan, who are children of Saul, do love 

DAVID: Yea, verily! It is like the rainbow in the sky unto me. 
But, O Michal, how shall we win through? I have loved 
Saul. And I have not it in me to hate him. Only his per- 
petual anger puts on me a surpassing heaviness, and a 
weariness, so my flesh wearies upon my bones. 

MICHAL: But why? Why? Why does it matter to thee? I 
love thee, all the time. Jonathan loves thee. Thy men 
love thee. Why does the frenzy of one distracted man so 
trouble thee? Why? It is out of all measure. 

DAVID: Nay, he is Saul, and the Lord's anointed. And he is 
King over all Israel. 


MICHAL: And what then? He is no man among men any 
more. Evil possesses him. Why heed him, and wake in 
the night for him? 

DAVID: Because he is the Lord's anointed, and one day he 
will kill me. 

MICHAL: He will never kill thee. Thou sayest thyself, the 
Lord will prevent him. And if not the Lord, then I will 
prevent him for I am not yet nothing in Gilgal. And 
Jonathan will prevent him. And the captains will prevent 
him. And art thou not also the Lord's anointed? And will 
not the Lord set thee King on the hill of Zion, in thine 
own Judah? 

DAVID: O Michal! O Michal! That the hand of the Lord's 
anointed should be lifted against the Lord's anointed! 
What can I do? For Saul is the Lord's, and I may not 
even see an enemy in him. I cannot, verily! Yet he seeks 
to slay me. All these months since he gave thee to me, 
after I brought the foreskins of the Philistine for thy 
dowry, he has hated me more, and sought my life. Be- 
fore the moon of our marriage was waned away thy 
father commanded his servants, and even Jonathan, to 
slay David on that spot where they should find him. So 
Jonathan came to me in haste and secret, and sent me 
away into the fields by night and hid me. Yea, before 
the month of our marriage was finished I had to flee 
from thee in the night, and leave my place cold. 

MICHAL: But not for long. Not for long. Jonathan per- 
suaded my father, so he took thee back. Even he loved 
thee again. 

DAVID: Yea, he also loves me! But Saul is a man falling back- 
ward down a deep pit, that must e'en clutch what is 
nearest him, and drag it down along with him. 

MICHAL: But Saul swore: As the Lord liveth, David shall 
not be slain. 

DAVID: Ay, he swore. But before two moons were passed 
his brow was black again. And when the season of the 
year came, that the Kings of the Philistine go forth, I 
went up against them, and fought. The months of the 

LAWRENCE: David 243 

fighting I fought with them, and all the people rejoiced 
But I saw with a sinking heart the face of Saul blacken 
blacken darker with greater hate! Yea, he hath loved me a 
as the Lord's anointed must love the Lord's anointed. 
But Saul is slipping backward down the pit of despair, 
away from God. And each time he strives to come forth, 
the loose earth yields beneath his feet, and he slides 
deeper. So the upreach of his love fails him, and the 
downslide of his hate is great and greater in weight. I 
cannot hate him nor love him but, O Michal, I am 
oppressed with a horror of him, 

MICHAL: Nay, do not dwell on him. 

DAVID: And the year went round its course, and once more 
there was war with the Philistine. And once more we 
prevailed, in the Lord. And once more the armies shouted 
my name. And once more I came home to thee and thou 
didst sing. And my heart did sing above thee. But as a 
bird hushes when the shadow of the hawk dances upon 
him from heaven, my heart went hushed under the 
shadow of Saul. And my heart could not sing between 
thy breasts, as it wanted to, even the heart of a bride- 
groom. For the shadow of Saul was upon it. 

MICHAL: Oh, why do you care? Why do you care? Why do 
you not love me and never care? 

DAVID: It is not in me. I have been blithe of thy love and 
thy body. But now three days ago, even in the midst of 
my blitheness, Saul again threw his javelin at me yea, 
even in the feast. And I am marked among all men. And 
the end draws nigh. For scarce may I leave this house, 
lest at some corner they slay me, 

MICHAL: What end, then? What end draws nigh? 

DAVID: I must get me gone. I must go into the wilderness, 

MICHAL (weeping): Oh, bitter! Bitter! My joy has been 
torn from me, as an eagle tears a lamb from the ewe. I 
have no joy in my life, nor in the body of my lord and my 
husband. A serpent is hid in my marriage bed, my joy 
is venomed. Oh, that they had wed me to a man that 
moved me not, rather than be moved to so much hurt. 


DAVID: Nay, nay! Oh, nay, nay! Between me and thee is no 
bitterness, and between my body and thy body there 
is constant joy! Nay, nay! Thou art a flame to me of 
man's forgetting, and God's presence. Nay, nay! Thou 
shalt not weep for me, for thou art a delight to me, even 
a delight and a forgetting. 

MICHAL: No! No! Thou leavest me in the night, to make 
prayers and moaning before the Lord. Oh, that thou 
hadst never married in thy body the daughter of thine 

DAVID: Say not so, it is a wrong thing; thou art sweet to 
me, and all my desire. 

MICHAL: It is not true! Thou meanest, and leavest me in 
the night, to fall before the Lord. 

DAVID: Yea, trouble is come upon me. And I must take my 
trouble to the Lord. But thy breasts are my bliss and 
my forgetting. Oh, do not remember my complaining! 
But let thyself be sweet to me, and let me sleep among 
the lilies. 

MICHAL: Thou wilt reproach me again with my father. 

DAVID: Ah, no! Ah, never I reproach thee! But now I can 
forget, I can forget all but thee, and the blossom of thy 
sweetness. Oh, come with me, and let me know thee. For 
thou art ever again as new to me. 

MICHAL (rising as he takes her hand) : Nay, thou wilt turn 
the bitterness of thy spirit upon me again. 

DAVID: Ah, no! I will not! But the gate of my life can I 
open to thee again, and the world of bitterness shall be 
gone under as in a flood. 

MICHAL: And wilt thou not leave me? 

DAVID: Nay, lift up thy voice no more, for the hour of 
speech has passed. 

Exeunt through curtain at back. 

LAWRENCE: David 245 

SCENE xiv : The same room, unchanged, an hour or so later: 
but the grey light of day. A WOMAN-SERVANT comes in. 
There is a wooden image in a corner. 

WOMAN-SERVANT: Yea, the lighted lamp, and the food! My 
lord David hath kept watch again before the Lord, and 
tears will fall on Michal's bosom, and darken her heart! 
Aiee! Aiee! That Saul should so hate the life of David! 
Surely the evil spirits are strong upon the King. 

BOY (entering) : Jonathan, the King's son, is below, knock- 
ing softly at the door. 

WOMAN-SERVANT: Go! Open swiftly, and make fast again. 
Aiee! Aiee! My lord Jonathan comes too early for a 
pleasure visit. I will see if they sleep. (Goes through the 

Enter JONATHAN. JONATHAN stands silent, pensive. 
Goes to window. Re-enter WOMAN-SERVANT. She 
starts, seeing JONATHAN then puts her hand on her 

WOMAN-SERVANT: O my lord Jonathan! Hush! 

JONATHAN: They are sleeping still? 

WOMAN-SERVANT: They are sleeping the marriage sleep. 
David hath even watched before the Lord, in the night. 
But now with Michal he sleeps the marriage sleep, in the 
lands of peace. Now grant a son shall come of it, to ease 
the gnawing of Michal's heart. 

JONATHAN: What gnaws in Michal's heart? 

WOMAN-SERVANT: Ah, my lord, her love even for David, 
that will not be appeased. If the Giver gave her a son, 
so should her love for David abate, and cease to gnaw 
in her. 

JONATHAN: But why should it gnaw in her? Hath she not 
got him, and the joy of him? 

WOMAN-SERVANT: O Jonathan, she is even as the house of 
Saul. What she hath cannot appease her. 

JONATHAN: What then would she more? 


WOMAN-SERVANT: She is of the house of Saul, and her very 
love is pain to her. Each cloud that crosses her is an- 
other death of her love. Ah, it is better to let love come 
and to let it go, even as the winds of the hills blow along 
the heavens. The sun shines, and is dulled, and shines 
again; it is the day, and its alterings; and after, it is night. 

JONATHAN: David and Michal are asleep? 

WOMAN-SERVANT: In the marriage sleep. Oh, break it not! 

JONATHAN: The sun will soon rise. Lo! this house is upon 
the wall of the city, and the fields and the hills lie open. 

WOMAN-SERVANT: Shall I bring food to Jonathan? 

JONATHAN: Nay! Hark! Men are crying at the city's west- 
ern gate, to open. The day is beginning. 

WOMAN-SERVANT: May it bring good to this house! 

JONATHAN: It is like to bring evil. 

WOMAN-SERVANT: Ah, mylord! 

DAVID (appearing through the curtain at the back) : Jona- 

JONATHAN: David! Thou art awake! 

DAVID (laughing): Yea! Am I not? Thou art my brother 
Jonathan, art thou not? (They embrace.) 

JONATHAN: O David, the darkness was upon my father in 
the night, and he hath again bid slay thee, Leave not 
the house. Unbar not the door! Watch! And be ready 
to flee! If armed men stand round the door (MICHAL 
appears), then let down the boy from the window, and 
send instantly to me. I will come with thy men and with 
mine, and we will withstand the hosts of Saul, if need be. 

MICHAL: Is something new toward? 

JONATHAN: My father bade his men take David, and slay 
him in the dawn. I must away, lest they see that I have 
warned thee. Farewell, O David! 

DAVID : Farewell, my brother Jonathan! But I will come 
down the stair with thee. 


MICHAL: Yea! Yea! So sure as it is well between me and 
him, so sure as we have peace in one another, so sure as 

LAWRENCE: David 247 

we are together comes this evil wind, and blows upon 
us! And oh, I am weary of my life, because of it! 

WOMAN-SERVANT; Aiee! Aiee! Say not so, O Michal! For thy 
days are many before thee. 

MICHAL: This time, an they take him, they will surely loll 

WOMAN-SERVANT: Sayest thou so! Oh, why, in the Lord's 

MICHAL: I know it. If they take him this time, he is lost. 

WOMAN-SERVANT: Oh, then shall they surely not take him! 
Oh, but what shall we do? 

MICHAL: Creep thou on the roof! Let no man see thee. And 
there lie: watch if armed men approach the house. 

DAVID (entering) : There is no one there. 

MICHAL: They will come as the sun comes. (To WOMAN.) 
Go thou and watch. 

WOMAN-SERVANT: Verily I will! 

MICHAL: O David! So sure as it is springtime in me, and 
my body blossoms like an almond-tree, comes this evil 
wind upon me, and withers my bud! Oh, how can I 
bring forth children to thee, when the spear of this vex- 
ation each time pierces my womb? 

DAVID: Trouble not thyself, my flower. No wind shall wither 

MICHAL: Oh, but I know. This time, an they take thee, thou 
shalt lose thy life. And Jonathan will not save thee. 

DAVID: Nay! Be not afraid for me. 

MICHAL: Yes! I am afraid! I am afraid! Ho! Ho, there! 
(Claps her hands. Enter BOY. To BOY.) Bring the water- 
skin for thy master, filled with water. And his pouch 
with bread for he goeth on a journey. O David! 
David! Now take thy cloak, and thy bow, and thy spear, 
and put on thy shoes. For thou must go! Jonathan can- 
not avail thee this time. 

DAVID: Nay! Why shall I flee, when the sun is rising? 

MICHAL: Yea! If thou go not before the sun is here, in the 


morning shalt thou be slain. Oh, make ready! Thy shoes! 
Put them on! (DAVID reluctantly obeys.) Thy cloak, so 
they shall not know thee! (He puts it on. ) Thy spear and 

BOY (entering) : Here is the pouch and the water-flask. 

MICHAL: Run, bring figs and dry curds. Dost thou hear 
aught at the door? 

BOY: Naught! 

MICHAL: O David, art thou ready! Oh, that thou leavest me! 

DAVTJD: I need not go! Yea, to comfort thee, I will go to the 
place that Jonathan knoweth of, and thou shalt send 
thither for me. Or wilt thou 

WOMAN-SERVANT (re-entering) : O Michal! O David, mas- 
ter! There be men-at-arms approaching, under the wall, 
and walking by stealth. Oh, flee! Oh, flee! for they mean 
thy life. 

MICHAL: Now must thou go by the window, into the fields. 
I see the sun's first glitter. Even for this hour have I kept 
the new rope ready. (She fastens the rope to a stout 
stake, and -flings the end from the window. To DAVTJD.) 
Go! Go! Swiftly be gone! 

DAVTJD: I will come again to thee. Sooner or later, as the 
Lord liveth, I will take thee again to me, unto my bed 
and my body. 

MICHAL: Hark! They knock! Ha a! 

BOY (entering) : There are men at the door! 

MICHAL: Go! Call to them! Ask what they want! But touch 
thou not the door! 

DAVID meanwhile climbs through the window the 
stake holds the rope. 

WOMAN-SERVANT (climbing with her hands) : So! So! So! 
My lord David! So! So! Swing him not against the wall, 
O spiteful rope. So! So! He lacks free! Yea! And God be 
praised, he is on the ground, looking an instant at his 
hands, So he looks up and departs! Lifts his hand and 

MICHAL: Is he gone? Draw in the rope, and hide it safe. 

LAWRENCE: David 249 

WOMAN-SERVANT: That I will! 

Meanwhile MICHAL has flung back the curtain of 
the recess where the low earthen bank of the bed is 
seen, with skins and covers. She takes the wooden 
image of a god and lays it in the bed, puts a pillow 
at its head, and draws the bed-cover high over it. 
MICHAL (to herself) : Yea, and my house's god which is in 
my house, shall He in my husband's place, and the image 
of my family god, which came of old from my mother's 
house, shall deceive them. For my house has its own 
gods, yea, from of old (enter BOY), and shall they for- 
sake me? 
BOY: They demand to enter. The King asketh for David, 

that he go before the King's presence. 
MICHAL: Go thou, say to them: My lord and my master, 

David, is sick in his bed. 
BOY: I will say that. 

WOMAN-SERVANT: Sit thou nigh the bed. And if they stiO 

will come up, thou shalt say he sleepeth. 
MICHAL: Yea, will I. (Sits by bed.) O god of my house- 
hold, O god of my mother's house, O god in the bed of 
David, save me now! 

Enter BOY. 

BOY: They will e'en set eyes on my master. 
MICHAL: Stay! Say to them, that their captains shall come 
up, two only: but softly, for my lord David hath been 
sick these three days, and at last sleepeth. 
BOY: I will tell them. 


WOMAN-SERVANT: And I too will go bid them hush. 
Exit. MICHAL sits in silence. 
Enter two CAPTAINS with the WOMAN-SERVANT. 
WOMAN-SERVANT: There he sleepeth in the bed. 
MICHAL: Sh-h-h! 

IST CAPTAIN: I will go even now and tell the King. 
Exeunt the CAPTAINS after a pause. 


Curtain rises after a short time on same scene. 

WOMAN-SERVANT (rushing in): They are coming again 
down the street, but boldly now. 

MICHAL: Yea! Let them come! By this time is David beyond 
their reach, in the secret place. 

WOMAN-SERVANT: Oh, and what shall befall thee! Oh! 

MICHAL: I am the King's daughter. Even Saul shall not lift 
his hand against me. Go down thou to the door, and 
hold the men whilst thou mayst. Why should we admit 
thflm forthwith? Say that Michal is performing her 


MICHAL: And shall I strip the bed? They will search the 
house and the fields. Nay, I will leave it, and they shall 
see how they were fools. O teraphim, O my god of my 
own house, hinder them and help me. O thou my tera- 
phim, watch for me! 

Sound of knocking below. 

VOICE OF SERVANT: Ho, ye! Who knocks, in the Lord's 

VOICE OF CAPTAIN: Open! Open ye! In the name of the 

VOICE OF SERVANT: What would ye in this house of sick- 

VOICE OF CAPTAIN: Open, and thou shalt know. 

VOICE OF SERVANT: I may not open, save Michal bid me. 

VOICE OF CAPTAIN: Then bid Michal bid thee open forth- 

VOICE OF SERVANT: O thou captain of the loud shout, surely 
thou wert here before! Know then, my master is sick, 
and my mistress perf ormeth her ablutions in the sight of 
the Lord. At this moment may I not open. 

VOICE OF CAPTAIN: An thou open not, it shall cost thee. 

VOICE OF SERVANT: Nay, now, is not my mistress King's 
daughter, and is not her command laid on me? O Cap- 
tain, wilt thou hold it against me, who tremble between 
two terrors? 

LAWRENCE: David 251 

VOICE OF CAPTAIN: Tremble shalt them, when the terror nips 
thee. E'en open the door, lest we break it in. 

VOICE or SERVANT: Oh, what uncouth man is this, that will 
break down the door of the King's daughter, and she 
naked at her bath, before the Lord! 

VOICE OF CAPTAIN: We do but the King's bidding. 

VOICE OF SERVANT: How can that be? What, did the King 
indeed bid ye break down the door of his daughter's 
house, and she uncovered in the Lord's sight, at her ablu- 

VOICE OF CAPTAIN: Yea! The King bade us bring before him 
instantly the bed of David, and David upon the bed! 

VOICE OF SERVANT: Oh, now, what unseemly thing is this! 
Hath not the King legs long enough? And can he not 
walk hither on his feet? Oh, send, fetch the King, I pray 
thee, thou Captain. Say, I pray thee, that Michal prays 
the King come hither. 

VOICE OF CAPTAIN: Word shall be sent. Yet open now this 
door, that the bird escapes me not. 

VOICE OF SERVANT: O Captain! And is my master then a 
bird? O would he were, even the young eagle, that he 
might spread wing! O man, hast thou no fear what may 
befall thee, that thou namest David a bird? O Israel, un- 
cover now thine ear! 

VOICE OF CAPTAIN: I name him not. 

VOICE OF SERVANT: And what would ye, with this bird my 
master! Oh, the Lord forbid that any man should call 
him a bird! 

VOICE OF CAPTAIN: We e'en must bring him upon his bed 
before the King. 

VOICE OF SERVANT: Now what is this! Will the King heal 
him with mighty spells? Or is David on his sick-bed to be 
carried before the people, that they may know his plight? 
What new wonder is this? 

VOICE OF CAPTAIN: I cannot say Yet I will wait no 


MICHAL: Open, Maiden! Let them come up. 

VOICE OF SERVANT: Oh, my mistress crieth unto me, that 


I open. Yea, O Michal, I will e'en open to these men. 

For who dare look aslant at the King's daughter? 
CAPTAIN (entering, followed by soldiers) : Is David still in 

the bed? An he cannot rise, will we carry him upon the 

bed, before the King. 
MICHAL: Now what is this? 

CAPTAIN: Sleeps he yet? Ho, David, sleepest thou? 
2ND SOLDIER: We will take up the bed, and wake him. 
3RD SOLDIER: He stirs not at all. 
CAPTAIN (to MICHAL): Yea, rouse him and tell him the 

King's will. 

MICHAL: I will not rouse him. 
CAPTAIN (going to the bed): Ho, thou! Ho! David! (He 

suddenly pulls back the bed-cover.) What is this? (Sud- 
den loud shrilling laughter from the WOMAN-SERVANT, 

who flees when the men look round.) 
SOLDIERS (crowding) : We are deceived. Ha-ha! It is a man 

of wood and a goats'-hair bolster! Ha-ha-ha! What hus- 
band is this of Michal's? 

MICHAL: My teraphim, and the god of my house. 
CAPTAIN: Where hast thou hidden David? 
MICHAL: I have not hidden him. 

VOICE OF SAUL (on the stair) : Why tarry ye here? What! 

Must the King come on his own errands? (Saul enters.) 

And are ye here? 

MICHAL: The Lord strengthen thee, my Father. 
SAUL: Ha! Michal! And can then David not rise from his 

bed, when the King sendeth for him? 
CAPTAIN: Lo! O King! Behold the sick man on the bed! We 

are deceived of Michal. 

SAUL: What is this? (Flings the image across the room.) 
MICHAL: Oh, my teraphim! Oh, god of my house! Oh, alas, 

alas, now will misfortune fall on my house! Oh, woe is! 

woe is me! (Kneels before teraphim.) 
SAUL: Where is David? Why hast thou deceived me? 
MICHAL: O god of my house, god of my mother's house, 

visit it not upon me! 

LAWBENCE: David ^5 

SAUL: Answer me, or I will slay thee! 

MICHAL: God of my house, I am slain! I am slain! 

SAUL: Where is David? 

MICHAL: O my lord, he is gone; he is gone ere the sun 
made day. 

SAUL: Yea, thou hast helped him against me. 

MICHAL (weeping) : Oh! Oh! He said unto me: Let me go; 
why shouldst thou make me slay thee, to trouble my -face 
in the sight of men, I could not hinder him, he would 
have slain me there! 

SAUL: Why hast thou deceived me so, and sent away mine 
enemy, that he is escaped? 

MICHAL (weeping) : I could not prevent him. 

SAUL: Even when did he go? 

MICHAL: He rose up before the Lord, in the deep night 
And then he would away, while no man saw. 

SAUL: Whither is he gone? 

MICHAL: Verily, and verily, I know not. 

SAUL: He hath escaped me! And my flesh and my blood 
hath helped mine enemy. Woe to you, Michal! Woe to 
you! Who have helped your father's enemy, who would 
pull down thy father to the ground. Lo! My flesh and my 
blood rebel against me, and my seed lies in wait for me, 
to make me fall! 

MICHAL: Oh, why must David be slain? 

SAUL: Woe to you, Michal! And David shall bring woe to 
you, and woe upon you. David shall pull down Saul, and 
David shall pull down Jonathan; thee, Michal, he will 
pull down, yea, and all thy house. Oh, thou mayst call on 
the teraphim of thy house. But if thy teraphim love thy 
house, then would he smite David speedily to the death, 
for if David liveth I shall not live, and thou shalt not 
live, and thy brother shall not live. For David will bring 
us all down in blood. 

MICHAL (weeping): O my Father, prophesy not against 

SAUL: It shall be so. What, have I no insight into the dark! 


And thou art now a woman abandoned of her man, and 

thy father castest thee off, because thou hast deceived 

him, and brought about his hurt. 

MICHAL: O my Father, forgive me! Hold it not against me! 
SAUL: Nay, thou hast bent thy will against thy father, and 

called destruction upon thy father's house. 
MICHAL: Ah, no! Ah, no! 


SCENE xv: Naioth in Ramah. A round, pyramid-like Ml, 
with a stair-like way to the top, where is a rude rock altar. 
Many PROPHETS, young and old, wild and dressed in blue 
ephods without mantle, on the summit of the hill and 
down the slope. Some have harps, psalteries, pipes and 
tabrets. There is wild music and rough, ragged chanting. 
They are expecting something. Below, SAMUEL and DAVID, 
talking. Not far off a PROPHET in attendance. 

PROPHETS (on hill irregularly crying and chanting) : This 
is the place of the Lord! Upon us shines the Unseen! 
Yea, here is very God! Who dare come into the glory! O 
thou, filled with the Lord, sing with me on this high 
place. For the egg of the world is filled with God. 

SAMUEL (speaking to DAVID) : It is time thou shouldst go. 
As a fox with the dogs upon him, hast thou much fleeing 
to do. 

DAVTJD: Must I always flee, my Father? I am already weary 
of flight 

SAMUEL: Yea, to flee away is thy portion. Saul cometh 
hither to seek thee. But surely shall he fall before the 
Lord. When he gets him back to his own city, enquire 
thou what is his will towards thee. And if it still be evil, 
then flee from him diligently, while he lives. 

LAWRENCE: David 255 

DAVID: And shall there never be peace between Saul's 
house and mine? 

SAMUEL: Who knows the Lord utterly! If there be not peace 
this time, then shall there never in life be peace between 
thee and him, nor thy house and his. 

DAVID: Yet am I his son-in-law, in Michal my wife! And 
my flesh yearneth unto mine own. 

SAMUEL: Is the house of Saul thine own? 

DAVID: Yea, verily! 

SAMUEL: Dost thou say, Yea, verily? Hark, now! If this 
time there be peace between thee and him, it should be 
peace. But if not, then think of naught but to flee, and 
save thyself, and keep on fleeing while Saul yet liveth. 
The Lord's choice is on thee, and thou shalt be King in 
thy day. As for me, I shall never see thy day. 

DAVTD: Would I could make my peace with Saul! Would I 
could return to mine own house, and to mine own wife, 
and to the men of my charge! 

SAMUEL: My son, once the Lord chose Saul. Now hath 
He passed Saul over and chosen thee. Canst thou look 
guiltless into the face of Saul? Can he look guiltless into 
thy face? Can ye look into each other's faces, as men 
who are open and at peace with one another? 

DAVID: Yet would I serve him faithfully. 

SAMUEL: Yea, verily! And in thine heart, art thou King, and 
pullest the crown from his brow with thine eyes, 

DAVID: O my Father, I would not! 

SAMUEL: Wouldst thou not? Willst thou say to me here and 
now: As the Lord liveth, I will not be King! But Saul and 
his house shall rule Israel for ever: and Jonathan my 
friend shall be King over me! Wilt thou say that to me? 

DAVID: Does Samuel bid me say this thing? 

SAMUEL: He bids thee not. But for Saul's sake, and for 
Jonathan's, and for MichaFs, and for peace, wilt thou say 
it? Answer me from thine own heart, for I know the 
smell of false words. Yea, I bid thee, speak! 

DAVID: The Lord shall do unto me as He will. 

SAMUEL: Yea, for the Lord hath anointed thee, and thou 


shalt rule Israel when Saul is dead, and I am dead, and 
the Judges of Israel are passed away. For my day is 
nearly over, and thine is another day. Yea, Saul has lived 
in my day, but thou livest in thine own day, that I know 
not of. 

DAVID: O my lord, is there naught but wrath and sorrow 
between me and Saul henceforth? 

SAMUEL: The Lord will show! Knowest thou not? 

DAVID: I would it were peace! 

SAMUEL: Wouldst thou verily? When the wind changes, 
will it not push the clouds its own way? Will fire leap 
lively in wet rain? The Lord is all things. And Saul hath 
seen a tall and rushing flame and hath gone mad, for the 
flame rushed over him. Thou seest thy God in thine own 
likeness, afar off, or as a brother beyond thee, who ful- 
fils thy desire. Saul yearneth for the flame: thou for thy 
tto-morrow's glory. The God of Saul hath no face. But 
-thou wilt bargain with thy God. So be it! I am old, and 
-would have done. Flee thou, flee, and flee again, and 
^once more, flee. So shalt thou at last have the kingdom 
and the glory in the sight of men. I anointed thee, but I 
^vould see thee no more, for my heart is weary of its end. 

DAVID: Wilt thou not bless me? 

SAMUEL: Yea, I will bless thee! Yea, I will bless thee, my 
son. Yea, for now thy way is the way of might, yea, and 
even for a long space of time it shall be so. But after 
many days, men shall come again to the faceless flame 
of my Strength, and of Saul's. Yea, I will bless thee! 
Thou art brave, and alone, and by cunning must thou 
live, and by cunning shall thy house live for ever. But 
hath not the Lord created the fox, and the weasel that 
boundeth and skippeth like a snake! 

DAVID: O Samuel, I have but tried to be wise! What should 
I do, and how should I walk in the sight of men? Tell me, 
my Father, and I will do it. 

SAMUEL: Thou wilt not. Thou walkest wisely, and thy 
Lord is with thee. Yea, each man's Lord is his own, 

LAWRENCE: David 257 

though. God be but one. I know not thy Lord. Yet walk 
thou with Him. Yea, thou shalt bring a new day for 
Israel. Yea, thou shalt be great, thou shalt fight as a 
flower fighteth upwards, through the stones and alone 
with God, to flower in the sun at last. For the yearning 
o the Lord streameth as a sun, even upon the stones. 
(A tumult above among the PROPHETS. SAMUEL looks up 
continues abstractedly.) Yea, and as a flower thou 
shalt fade. But Saul was once a burning bush, afire with 
God. Alas, that he saw his own image mirrored in the 
faces of men! (A blare of music above.) 

SAMUEL (to PROPHET) : What see ye? 

PROPHETS (shouting) : The sun on the arms of the King. 

SAMUEL (to DAVID) : Now shalt thou go! For I, too, will not 
set mine eyes upon Saul the King. 

DAVID: Bless me then, O my Father! 

SAMUEL: The Lord fill thy heart and thy soul! The Lord 
quicken thee! The Lord kindle thy spirit, so thou fall 
into no snare! And now get thee gone! And when Saul 
is returned to his own place, enquire thou secretly his 
will towards thee. And then act wisely, as thou knoweth. 

DAVID: I go forth into the fields, as a hare when the hound 
gives mouth! But if the Lord go with me ... 

SAMUEL (to PROPHET) : Is Saul surely in sight? 

PROPHET: Verily, he is not far off. He has passed the well 
of Shecu. 

SAMUEL: Has he company of men? 

PROPHET: Ten armed men has he. 

SAMUEL: Will he still bring armed men to the high place? 
Lo! Say thou to him: Samuel hath gone before the Lord, 
in the hidden places of the Hill. 

PROPHET: I will e'en say it. 

SAMUEL: Say also to him: David, the anointed, is gone, we 
know not whither. And let the company of the prophets 
come down towards the King. 

PROPHET: It shall be so. 


PROPHET (climbing hill and calling) : O ye Prophets of the 

Lord, put yourselves in array, to meet Saul the King. 
2ND PROPHET (on hill with flute sounds flute loudly with 

a strong tune shouts) : Oh, come, all ye that know our 

God! Oh, put yourselves in array, ye that know the 

Name. For that which is without name is lovelier than 

anything named! (Sounds the tune strongly.) 

PROPHETS gather in array musicians in front; they 
chant slowly. As SAUL approaches they slowly de- 

CHORUS OF PROPHETS: Armies there are, for the Lord our 

Armies there are against the Lord! 

Wilt thou shake spears in the face of Almighty God? 

Lo! in thy face shakes the lightning. Bis. 

Countest thou thyself a strong man, sayest thou Ha-ha! 

Lo! We are strong in the Lord! Our arrow seest thou not! 

Yet with the unseen arrows of high heaven 

Pierce we the wicked man's feet, pierce we his feet in 
the fight 

Lo! the bow of our body is strung by God. 

Lo! how He taketh aim with arrow-heads of our wrath! 

Prophet of God is an arrow in full flight 

And he shall pierce thy shield, thou, thou Lord's enemy. 

Long is the fight, yet the unseen arrows fly 

Keen to a wound in the soul of the great Lord's enemy. 

Slowly he bleeds, yet the red drops run away 

Unseen and inwardly, as bleeds the wicked man. 

Bleeding of God! Secretly of God. 
SAUL (entering with ARMED MEN PROPHETS continue to 

chant) : Peace be with you! 
PROPHET: Peace be with the King! 

SAUL: Lo! ye prophets of God! Is not Samuel set over you? 
PROPHET: Yea! O King! 
SAUL (beginning to come under the influence of the chant 

and to take the rhythm in his voice) : Is Samuel not here? 
PROPHET: He hath gone up before the Lord! 

LAWRENCE: David 259 

SAUL: Surely the Lord is in this place! Surely the great 
brightness (looks round) and the son of Jesse, is he 
among the prophets? 

PROPHET: Nay, he has gone hence. 

SAUL: Gone! Gone! What, has he fled from the high place! 
Surely he feared the glory! Yea, the brightness! So he 
has fled before the flame! Thus shall he flee before the 
flame! But gone? Whither gone? 

PROPHET: We know not whither. 

SAUL: Even let him go! Even let him go whither he will! 
Yea, even let him go! Yea! Come we forth after such as 
he? Let him go! Is not the Lord here? Surely the bright- 
ness is upon the hill! Surely it gleams upon this high 

LEADER OF MEN-AT-ARMS: Tarry we here, O King? Where 
shall we seek the son of Jesse? 

SAUL: Even where ye will. 

LEADER: Tarrieth the King here? 

SAUL: Yea! I will know if the Lord is verily in this place. 

PROPHET: Verily He is here. 

Company of PROPHETS still clwnt. 

SAUL (going slowly forward): Art Thou here, O Lord? 
What? Is this Thy brightness upon the hill? What? Art 
Thou here in Thy glory? 

COMPANY OF PROPHETS: Fire within fire is the presence of 
the Lord! 

Sun within the sun is our God! Bis. 

Rises the sun among the hills of thy heart 

Rising to shine in thy breast? Bis. 

SAUL: Yea! O Prophets! Am I not King? Shall not the Sun 
of suns rise among the hills of my heart, and make dawn 
in my body? What! Shall these prophets know the glory 
of the Lord, and shall the son of Kish stay under a cloud? 
(Sticks his spear into the ground, and unbuckles hts 

LEADER OF ARMED MEN: Wilt thou go up before the Lord, 
O King? Then camp we here, to await thy pleasure. 

SAUL: I will go up. Camp an ye will. 


LEADER: Even camp we here. (They untackle.) 

SAUL: Ha! Ha! Is there a glory upon the prophets? Do their 
voices resound like rocks in the valley! Ha! Ha! Thou of 
the sudden fire! I am coming! Yea! I will come into the 
glory! (Advancing, throws down his woollen mantle. The 
IST PROPHET takes it up.) 

CHORUS OF PROPHETS: Whiteness of wool helps thee not in 

the high place, 

Colours on thy coat avail thee naught. Bis. 

Fire unto fire only speaks, and only flame 
Beckons to flame of the Lord! Bis, 

The PROPHETS divide and make way as SAUL comes 

SAUL: Is my heart a cold hearth? Is my heart fireless unto 
Thee? Kindler! it shall not be so! My heart shall shine to 
Thee, yea, unshadow itself. Yea, the fire in me shall 
mount to the fire of Thee, Thou Wave of Brightness! 

SOLDIER (below with loud and sudden shout): The sun 
is in my heart. Lo! I shine forth! 

SAUL (with suddenness) : I will come up! Oh! I will come 
up! Dip me in the flame of brightness, Thou Bright One, 
call up the sun in my heart, out of the clouds of me. Lo! 
I have been darkened and deadened with ashes! Blow a 
fierce flame on me, from the middle of Thy glory, O 
Thou of the faceless flame. (Goes slowly forward.) Oh, 
dip me in the ceaseless flame! 

Throws down his coat, or wide-sleeved tunic, that 
came below the knee and was heavily embroidered 
at neck and sleeves in many colours: is seen in the 
sleeveless shirt that comes half way down the thigh. 

SOLDIER (below) : Kings come and pass away, but the flame 
is flame forever. The Lord is here, like a tree of white 
fire! Yea, and the white glory goes in my nostrils like a 

SAUL: Shall a soldier be more blessed than I? Lo! I am not 
dead, thou Almighty! My flesh is still flame, still steady 
flame. Flame to flame calleth, and that which is dead is 
cast away. (Flings off his shirt: is seen, a dark-skinned 

LAWRENCE: David 261 

man in leathern loin-girdle.) Nay, I carry naught upon 
me, the long flame of my body leans to die flame of all 
glory! I am no king, save in the Glory of God. I have no 
kingdom, save my body and soul. I have no name. But as 
a slow and dark flame leaneth to a great glory of flame, 
and is sipped up, naked and nameless lean I to the glory 
of the Lord. 

CHORUS OF PROPHETS: Standeth a man upon the stem of 

upright knees 
Openeth the navel's closed bud, unfolded, the flower of 

the breast! 

Lo! Like the cup of a flower, with morning sun 
Filled is thy breast with, the Lord, filled is thy navel's 
wide flower! 

SOLDIER: Oh, come! For a little while the glory of the Lord 
stands upon the high place! Oh, come! before they build 
Him houses, and enclose Him within a roof! Oh, it is 
good to live now, with the light of the first day's sun 
upon the breast. For when the seed of David have put 
the Lord inside a house, the glory will be gone, and men 
will walk with no transfiguration! Oh, come to this 
high place! Oh, come! 

SAUL: Surely I feel my death upon me! Surely the sleep of 
sleeps descends. (Casts himself down.) I cast myself 
down, night and day; as in death, lie I naked before 
God. Ah, what is life to me! Alas that a man must live 
till death visit him! that he cannot walk away into the 
cloud of Sun! Alas for my life! For my children and my 
children's children, alas! For the son of Jesse will wipe 
them out! Alas for Israel! For the fox will trap the lion 
of strength, and the weasel that is a virgin, and bringeth 
forth her young from her mouth, shall be at the throats 
of brave men! Yea, by cunning shall Israel prosper, in 
the days of the seed of David: and by cunning and lurk- 
ing in holes of the earth shall the seed of Jesse fill the 
earth. Then the Lord of Glory will have drawn far off, 
and gods shall be pitiful, and men shall be as locusts. But 
I, I feel my death upon me, even in the glory of the 


Lord. Yea, leave me in peace before my death, let me re- 
treat into the flame! 
A pause. 

ANOTHER SOLDIER: Saul hath abandoned his kingdom and 
his men! Yea, he puts the Lord between him and his 

PROPHET: E'en let him be! For his loss is greater than an- 
other's triumph. 

SOLDIER: Yea! But wherefore shall a man leave his men 
leaderless even for the Lord! 

IST SOLDIER (prophesying) : When thou withdrawest Thy 
glory, let me go with Thee, O Brightest, even into the 
fire of Thee! 

CHORUS OF PROPHETS: Cast thyself down, that the Lord 

may snatch thee up. 
Fall before the Lord, and fall high. 
All things come forth from the flame of Almighty God, 
Some things shall never return! Bis. 

Some have their way and their will, and pass at last 
To the worm's waiting mouth. Bis. 

But the high Lord He leans down upon the hill, 
And wraps His own in His flame, 
Wraps them as whirlwind from the world, 
Leaves not one sigh for the grave. . . . 


SCENE xvi: Late afternoon. A rocky place outside Gilgal. 
DAVTJO is hiding near the stone Ezel. 

DAVID (alone) : Now, if Jonathan comes not, I am lost. This 
is the fourth day, and evening is nigh. Lo! Saul seeketh 
my life. O Lord, look upon me, and hinder mine en- 
emies! Frustrate them, make them stumble, O my God! 
So near am I to Gilgal, yet between me and mine own 

LAWRENCE: David 263 

house lies the whole gap of death. Yea, Michal, thou art 
not far from me. Yet art thou distant even as death. I 
hide and have hidden. Three days have I hidden, and 
eaten scant bread. Lo! Is this to be the Lord's anointed! 
Saul will loll me, and I shall die! There! Someone moves 
across the field! Ah, watch! watch! Is it Jonathan? It is 
two men; yea, it is two men. And one walks before the 
other. Surely it is Jonathan and his lad! Surely he has 
kept his word! O Lord, save me now from mine enemies, 
for they compass me round. O Lord my God, put a 
rope round the neck of my enemy, lest he rush forward 
and seize me in the secret place. Yea, it is Jonathan, in a 
striped coat. And a man behind him carryeth the bow. 
Yea, now must I listen, and uncover my ears, for this is 
Me or death. O that he may say: Behold, the arrows are 
on this side of thee, take them! For then I can come 
forth and go to my house, and the King will look kindly 
on me. But he comes slowly, and sadly. And he will 
say: The arrows are beyond thee and I shall have to 
flee away like a hunted dog, into the desert. It will be 
so! Yea! And I must hide lest that lad who follows Jona- 
than should see me, and set Saul's soldiery upon me. 
(Exit after a pause.) 

Enter JONATHAN with bow, and LAD with quiver. 

JONATHAN (stringing his bow) : Lo! this is the stone Ezel. 
Seest thou the dead bush, like a camel's head? That is 
a mark I have shot at, and now, before the light falls, 
will I put an arrow through his nose. (Takes an arrow.) 
Will this fly well? (Balancing it.) 

LAD: It is well shafted, O Jonathan. 

JONATHAN: Ay! Let us shoot. (Takes aim shoots.) Yea, it 
touched the camel's ear, but not his nose! Give me an- 
other! (Shoots.) Ah! Hadst thou a throat, thou camel, 
thou wert dead. Yet is thy nose too cheerful! Let us try 
again! (Takes another arrow shoots.) Surely there is a 
scratch upon thy nose-tip! Nay, I am not myself! Give 
me the quiver. And run thou, take up the arrows ere the 
shadows come. 


LAD: I will find them. 

He runs, as Tie goes JONATHAN shoots an arrow over 
his head. The LAD runs after it stops. 
JONATHAN: Is not the arrow beyond thee? 
LAD: One is here! Here, another! 

JONATHAN: The arrow is beyond thee! Make speed! Haste! 
Stay not! 

LAD: Three have I! But the fourth 

JONATHAN: The arrow is beyond thee! Run, make haste! 
LAD: I see it not! I see it not! Yea, it is there within bush. I 

have it, and it is whole. O master, is this all? 
JONATHAN: There is one more. Behold it is beyond thee. 
LAD (running) : I see it not! I see it not! Yea, it is here! 
JONATHAN: It is all. Come, then! Come! Nay, the light is 
fading and I cannot see. Take thou the bow and the ar- 
rows, and go home. For I will rest here awhile by the 
stone Ezel. 

LAD: Will my master come home alone? 
JONATHAN: Yea will I, with the peace of day's-end upon 
me. Go now, and wait me in the house. I shall soon 

Exit LAD. JONATHAN sits down on a stone till he is 
JONATHAN (calling softly) : David! David! 

DAVID comes forth, weeping. Falls on his face to the 
ground and bows himself three times before JONA- 
THAN, JONATHAN raises him. They kiss one another., 
and weep. 

DAVID: Ah, then it is death, it is death to me from Saul? 
JONATHAN: Yea, he seeks thy life, and thou must flee far 


DAVID (weeping) Ah, Jonathan! Thy servant thanks thee 
from his heart. But ah, Jonathan, it is bitter to go, to flee 
like a dog, to be houseless and homeless and wifeless, 
without a friend or helpmate! Oh, what have I done, 
what have I done! Tell me, what have I done! And slay 
me if I be in fault. 
JONATHAN (in tears) : Thou art not in fault. Nay, thou art 

LAWRENCE: David 265 

not! But thou art anointed, and thou shalt be King. Hath 
not Samuel said it even now, in Naioth, when he would 
not look upon the face of Saul! Yea, thou must flee until 
thy day come, and the day of the death of Saul, and the 
day of the death of Jonathan. 

DAVID (weeping) : Oh, I have not chosen this. This have I 
not taken upon myself. This is put upon me, I have not 
chosen it! I do not want to go! Yea, let me come to Gilgal 
and die, so I see thy face, and the face of Michal, and 
the face of the King. Let me die! Let me come to Gilgal 
and die! (Flings himself on the ground in a paroxysm 
of grief.) 

JONATHAN: Nay! Thou shalt not die. Thou shalt flee! And 
till Saul be dead, thou shalt flee. But when Saul has 
fallen, and I have fallen with my father for even now 
my life follows my father then thou shalt be King. 

DAVID: I cannot go! 

JONATHAN: Yea! Thou shalt go now. For they will send 
forth men to meet me, ere the dark. Rise now, and be 
comforted. (DAVID rises.) 

DAVID : Why shouldst thou save me! Why dost thou with- 
hold thy hand! Slay me now! 

JONATHAN: I would not slay thee, nor now nor ever. But 
leave me now, and go. And go in peace, forasmuch as 
we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, say- 
ing: The Lord be between me and thee, and between 
my seed and thy seed for ever. 

DAVID: Yea, the covenant is between us! And I will go, and 
keep it. 

They embrace in silence, and in silence DAVID goes 

JONATHAN (alone in the twilight): Thou goest, David! 
And the hope of Israel with thee! I remain, with my 
father, and the star-stone falling to despair. Yet what is 
it to me! I would not see thy new day, David. For thy 
wisdom is the wisdom of the subtle, and behind thy 
passion lies prudence. And naked thou wilt not go into 
the fire. Yea, go thou forth, and let me die. For thy 


virtue is in thy wit, and thy shrewdness. But in Saul 
have I known tie magnanimity of a man. Yea, thou art a 
smiter down of giants, with a smart stone! Great men 
and magnanimous, men of the faceless flame, shall fall 
from Strength, fall before thee, thou David, shrewd 
whelp of the lion of Judah! Yet my heart yearns hot over 
thee, as over a tender, quick child. And the heart of 
my father yearns, even amid its dark wrath. But thou 
goest forth, and knowest no depth of yearning, thou son 
of Jesse. Yet go! For my twilight is more to me than thy 
day, and my death is dearer to me than thy life! Take it! 
Take thou the kingdom, and the days to come. In the 
flames of death where Strength is, I will wait and watch 
till the day of David at last shall be finished, and wis- 
dom no more be fox-faced, and the blood gets back its 
flame. Yea, the flame dies not, though the sun's red dies! 
And I must get me to the city. 
Rises and departs hastily. 


A Play 

Copyright 1937 by Dorothy Sayers. 
Reprinted by permission of Harcourt, 

Brace and Co. 

The Zeal of Thy House was first presented, in a slightly 
shortened form, at the Canterbury Festival, 1937, by the 
Friends of the Cathedral; Producer: Harcourt Williams, in 
association with Frank Napier. 

My best thanks are due to Miss Margaret Babington and 
the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral for inviting me to 
write the play and for much hospitable kindness; to Mr. 
Laurence Irving and Miss Elizabeth Haffenden, who de- 
signed the stage and the costumes respectively; to Mr. 
G. H. Knight, who arranged the music; to the large cast of 
professional and amateur actors who interpreted the play 
with so much skill and enthusiasm; and, last but not least, 
to Mr. Williams and Mr. Napier, who, in addition to play- 
ing the important parts of William of Sens and Theodatus, 
coped so patiently and generously with the problems of 
production presented to them by an inexperienced play- 



Angelic Persons: 


RAPHAEL >Archangels 


CASSDEL, the Recording Angel 

A YOUNG CHERUB, Thurifer to Raphael 



STEPHEN, the Treasurer 

THEODATUS, the Sacristan 

MARTIN, the Guest-Brother and Infirmarian 

AMBROSE, the Choirmaster , 

WULFRAM, the Director of the Farm 1 

,77^. * e*.j rr._L i j r members 
ERNULPHUS, the Director of the Kitchen and 


*****. Cathedral 

PAUL, the Gardener -, 

HILARY, the Almoner 

SILVESTER, the Painter 

GERVASE, the Historian and Clerk 

HUBERT, an Oblate, Superintendent of the Rough Masons 


WILLIAM OF SENS, Architect to the Cathedral 




WALTER , T __ . 

HUGH Workmen 




The action takes place during the years 1175-1179. 

NOTE. The names Michael, Raphael, are to be pronounced 
as trisyllables throughout. 

i: At the opening of the play, the scene is set as for a 
meeting of the Chapter, with seats about a long table. The 
CHOIR having entered and taken their places, they sing the 
hymn following; 


Disposer supreme, and judge of the earth, 
Thou choosest for Thine the weak and the poor; 
To frail earthen vessels and things of no worth 
Entrusting Thy riches which aye shall endure. 

Those vessels soon fail, though full of Thy light, 
And at Thy decree are broken and gone; 
Then brightly appeareth the arm of Thy might, 
As through the clouds breaking the lightnings have 

During the singing of the second half of this verse, 
there enter MICHAEL, RAPHAEL with his THURIFER, 
GABRIEL and CASSIEL the Recorder. They pass slowly 
to the steps while the next verse is sung. 
Like clouds are they borne to do Thy great will, 
And swift as the wind about the world go; 
All full of Thy Godhead while earth lieth still, 
They thunder, they lighten, the waters o'erflow. 

f. He maketh His Angels spirits. 
IJT. And His ministers a flaming fire. 


I am God's servant Michael the Archangel; 

I walk in the world of men invisible, 

Bearing the sword that Christ bequeathed His Church 

To sunder and to save. 


I am God's servant 
Raphael the Archangel; and I walk 



In the world of men invisible; I receive 
Prayer spoken or unspoken, word or deed 
Or thought or whatsoever moves the heart, 
Offering it up before the Throne. 


I am 

God's servant the Archangel Gabriel, 
The heavenly runner between God and man, 
Moving invisible. 


God's Recorder, I, 

That keep the Book and cast up all accounts, 
Cassiel, chief scrivener to the Courts of Heaven. 

$". Their sound is gone out into all lands. 

ty. And their words into the ends of the world. 

During the singing of the following verse, the 
ANGELIC PERSONS depart severally, MICHAEL stand- 
ing above RAPHAEL on the right side of the steps, 
and the TETURTFER kneeling below them; CASSIEL 
with his book on the left side of the steps with 
GABRIEL above. 


Oh, loud be Thy trump and stirring the sound, 
To rouse us, O Lord, from sin's deadly sleep; 
May lights which Thou kindlest in darkness around 
The dull soul awaken her vigils to keep. 

The Recorder, CASSIEL, sits at his desk; 
RAPHAEL hands his censer to the THURIFER, and sits. 
MICHAEL: What is our business here to-day in Canterbury? 
CASSIEL (slapping the Book rather sharply open and run- 
ning his finger down the page) : A meeting of the Cathe- 
dral Chapter to choose an architect for the rebuilding 
of the Choir after the great fire of 1174. 
RAPHAEL (reminiscently) : Ah, yes the choir. I was sorry 
to see the old one go. It was very beautiful, and a 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 273 

favourite haunt of mine. Prayer had soaked into the 

stones and sanctified them. 
CASSIEL (austerely) i Mankind are exceedingly careless of 

their possessions. I have an entry against one Tom Hogg, 

neatherd, who neglected to clean his chimney and so 

had his thatch set on fire. The sparks were blown across 

the road and lodged under the lead roof of the church. 

In a short time all was ablaze. 
GABRIEL: A heavy consequence for a light offence. Was 

that your doing, Michael? 
MICHAEL: It was. I bore the flame betwixt my hands and 

set it among the rafters. We fanned it with our wings ? 

my angels and I, riding upon the wind from the south. 
CASSIEL (muttering to himself over the Book) : . . . and 

seven, twenty-six . . . and three, twenty-nine . . . and 

nine, thirty-eight. . . . 

RAPHAEL: Was it done to avenge the murder of the Arch- 

CASSIEL: . . . and six. Put down four and carry eight. 
MICHAEL: I do not know. I am a soldier. I take my orders. 
CASSIEL (casting up a column and ruling a line beneath 

it) : We all do that, Michael. Your interference in the 

matter does not affect the debit against Tom Hogg. He 

stands charged with Sloth to a considerable amount. 

What use was made of his sin is neither here nor there. 

It is a question of economics. 
MICHAEL: Quite so. I could have done the work perfectly 

well myself, with a thunderbolt. Hogg's sin was not in 

the least necessary. 
GABRIEL (in humorous resignation) : Nothing that men do 

is ever necessary. At least, that is my experience. I find 

them very amusing. 

The sound of the "VENI CREATOR" is heard from the 
lower end of the Chapter-House as the CHOIR- 
MONKS enter in procession. 
RAPHAEL: I find them very pathetic. 
GABRIEL: You see them at their best, Raphael; as Michael 

sees them at their worst. 


MICHAEL: I find them very perverse. If God were not 

infinite, they would surely exhaust His patience. 
CASSDEL: They make a great deal of work in the counting 
house. Happily, being an angel, and not a man, I like 
work. The hatred of work must be one of the most 
depressing consequences of the Fall. 
GABRIEL: Some men work like angels and whistle over 
their work. They are much the most cheerful kind. 

In the meantime, RAPHAEL has met the MONKS at 
the foot of the steps and now precedes them to the 
Chapter, swinging his censer before them. The last 
verse of the hymn is sung by the MONKS standing 
about the table. Then all sit. RAPHAEL comes down 
to sit beside MICHAEL. CASSIEL opens the Book at 
a fresh page and prepares to take minutes of the 

PRIOR: Brethren, the business before us is, as you know, 
the appointment of an architect for the new choir. Our 
earlier discussions have brought the number of suitable 
candidates down to three. To-day we have to make our 
final choice. 

THEODATUS: Under God's guidance. 
PRIOR: Under God's guidance, of course, Father Theodatus. 
The three men in question are John of Kent, William of 
Sens, and Henry of York. 

STEPHEN: Have we got the estimates, Father Prior? 
PRIOR (handing papers to STEPHEN) : I have two of them 
here. Henry of York's is lower than John of Kent's. He 
thinks he can restore the existing fabric without pulling 
it all down and rebuilding. 

WULFRAM: Will that be safe? Some of the masonry looks to 

me very insecure. John of Kent is a local man he has 

had more opportunity to judge. Besides, it would look 

well to give the work to a local man. 

ERNULPHUS: John is very young young men are always 

full of extravagant ideas. No experience. 
aiLARY: One must encourage young men. The future is 
with the young. 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 2,75 

STEPHEN: John's estimate is certainly rather high. I don't 
think we can countenance extravagance. 

PKIOR: We must consider expense, of course, Father Treas- 
urer. Perhaps we had better have the architects in and 
hear what they have to say. Father Gervase if you will 

be so good 

GERVASE goes out by door, right. 

AMBROSE: Speaking as Choirmaster, may I urge here and 
now that we should get a man who understands some- 
thing about acoustics. The old choir 

PAUL: What we want is the old choir restored to what it 
was before. I dislike this trivial modern stuff they are 
putting up all over the place, with its pointed arcading 
and flourishy capitals. Give me something solid, like 

HILARY: One must move with the times, Father Paul. Now 
William of Sens is a progressive man. 

WULFRAM: He is a foreigner. Why should we have a for- 
eigner? Isn't an Englishman good enough? Money should 
be kept in the country. 

STEPHEN: We do not seem to have had an estimate from 
William of Sens. 

Re-enter GERVASE right with JOHN OF KENT, WIL- 

PRIOR: Not yet. He writes to me here Ah, good morn- 
ing sirs. Pray come to the table. We have received your 
letters and considered your qualifications. We are now 
minded to hear your further opinions, after inspection 
of the site. You, Master Henry, have submitted a very 
conservative estimate of the cost of reconstruction. 

HENRY: My Lord Prior, I have kept the expense down to 
the lowest possible figure; and after examination of the 
standing masonry I have prepared a plan and elevation. 
Producing it. 

PRIOR: Let us have that. 

HENRY puts the plan before the PRIOR and moves 
4$ro$$ to left of table. 

HENRY: You will see that I have allowed for keeping the 


greater part of the standing fabric. (THEODATUS and 

ERNULPETUS on PRIOR'S left examine the plan.) With the 

exception of the more grievously damaged portions 

which I have marked, I see no reason why the present 

structure may not be restored 

He passes plan down to the MONKS, on left. 

JOHN: My Lord Prior 

HENRY: and put into good order along the original lines. 

The existing outer walls may be retained 

WULFRAM: You think they are not too much weakened by 

the action of the fire? 
JOHN: Weakened? They are calcined in places almost to 

HENRY: They can be patched and grouted, Master John; 

and by the addition of supporting buttresses and by 

altering the pitch of the roof so as to lessen the 


SILVESTER (who has heen studying the plan with MARTIN) : 

Will not the effect of the buttresses be somewhat 


MARTIN: There is something a little mean in the propor- 
tions of this roof. 
AMBROSE (who is a man of one idea) : I should think it 

would be bad for sound. After all, the chief use of a 

choir is to hold services in. 
MARTIN: The sooner we get a choir the better. The singing 

has been very bad lately. I am ashamed to hear sacred 

words so howled. 

Hands hack plan to HENRY, who takes it across 
right, to WULFRAM. 
AMBROSE (defensively) : The nave is very awkward to sin 

in. What with the west end boarded up 

HILARY: Well, we can't be expected to hold our services in 

full view, not to say smell, of the common people. 

AMBROSE: And the east end boarded up 

ERNULPHUS quietly falls asleep. 
WULFRAM (taking plan): The draughts are appalling. I 

caught a shocking cold last Tuesday. 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 2,77 

AMBROSE: We are singing in a wooden box. You can't sing 
properly in a box. 

PRIOR: Time is certainly of some importance. 

STEPHEN: The cost is still more important. 

HENRY (moving up again left of table) : To repair, accord- 
ing to my plan, will be very much cheaper and quicker 
than to pull down and rebuild. I could engage to be 
ready within two years 

JOHN: And in two years more you will have to rebuild 
again. My Lord Prior 

PRIOR: You, Master John, recommend a complete recon- 

JOHN: Recommend? It must be done. Do not be de- 
ceived. This botching is useless and dangerous. It is 

HENRY: Master John, I am older than you and more expe- 

JOHN: You never in your life built anything bigger than 
a parish church. 

PRIOR: Master John, Master John! 

JOHN: This is the Cathedral Church of Christ at Canter- 
bury. It must be the wonder of the realm nay, of the 
world! Will you insult God with patchwork? Give me 
the commission, Lord Prior, and I will build you a 
church worth looking at! 

Producing plan and elevation, which he passes to 

HENRY: To the greater glory of Master John of Kent! 

JOHN: To the glory of God and of the blessed Saints Dun- 
stan and Elphege. 

STEPHEN (aside to the PRIOR): And the entire depletion 
of the Treasury. Will somebody please tell me where 
the money is to come from? 

THEODATUS: The devotion of the common people is most 
touching. A poor widow yesterday brought us five far- 
things, all her little savings. 

STEPHEN: Our Lord will reward her. But that will not go 
very far. 


MARTIN: I think we ought to take the long view. Canter- 
bury is the most important church in the Kingdom, and 
attracts a great many people to the town. What with the 
visitors and the great increase in the number of pilgrims 

since the lamented death of the late Archbishop 

ALL: Blessed St. Thomas, pray for us. 

They cross themselves. 

MARTIN: A little money spent now on building will repay 
itself handsomely in donations and bequests. 

STEPHEN passes the plan to HILARY. 
THEODATUS (rather loudly] : If the fire was a Divine judg- 
ment for the Archbishop's murder 

ERNULPHUS (waking with a start) : Eh? the Archbishop? 
Blessed St. Thomas, pray for us. 

He crosses himself and falls asleep instantly. 
THEODATUS: I say, if the fire was a judgment, then the new 
building is a reparation to God, and should be an offer- 
ing worthy of its high destination and a sufficient sacri- 
fice for the sins of this country. 

SILVESTER: No artist can do his best work when he has to 
consider every halfpenny. Thou shalt not muzzle the 


THEODATUS: All this talk about money is sheer lack of 

faith. God will provide. 

STEPHEN: No doubt. But, humanly speaking, the accounts 
will have to go through the Treasury, and I feel respon- 

HILARY (passing design to PAUL) : There is a good deal 
of elaborate and expensive ornament here, Master John. 
PAUL: Modern nonsense, modern nonsense. Let us have 
the old choir back. Here is a groined roof and a cleres- 
tory and a lot of fiddle-faddle. How long is all this going 
to take? 

JOHN (uncompromisingly): Seven years perhaps more. 
MARTIN: Seven years! Have we to put up with half a 
cathedral for seven years? Why, God made the world 
in six days! 

SAVERS: The Zeal of Thy House 279 

PRIOR: God, Father Martin, was not subject to limitations 
of funds or material. 

JOHN (angrily aside to WILLIAM): Nor to the cheese- 
paring parsimony of a monastic chapter. 

WILLIAM (who has listened to all this with a quiet smile; 
with a touch of humour): Possibly God is an abler 
architect than any of us. 

PRIOR: We have not yet heard your opinion, Master Wil- 
liam. Do you think it possible to restore the remaining 

WILLIAM: Oh, I should think very likely. I should cer- 
tainly hope to save some of it. 

JOHN (angrily to WILLIAM) : That is not what you said to 
us outside. 

WILLIAM: But I really cannot say I do not see how any- 
body can say without prolonged and careful examina- 

AMBROSE: That's very true. Very reasonable. 

WILLIAM: That is why I have as yet prepared no estimate 
or plan. But I have brought some drawings of the work 
entrusted to me at Sens and elsewhere which will give 
you some idea of the kind of thing I should like to do 

Hands papers to PRIOR. 

PRIOR: Now, I like that. Extremely fine and dignified. And 
veiy modern in feeling. 

STEPHEN: And not too ornate. 

WILLIAM hands them on down right. 

GERVASE: It is wonderful. It is like a poem in stone. I 
should dearly love to see it. How light and yet how 

He looks admiringly at WILLIAM. 

WILLIAM: Time and cost would depend on the extent of 
the work. I suggest making a thorough survey before 
getting out a preliminary plan and estimate. Naturally, 
I should commit you to nothing without the advice and 
approval of yourself, Lord Prior and the Father Treas- 


STEPHEN: Just so. We should object to nothing in reason. 

WILLIAM (he has now got the ear of the house) : I should 

be obliged (firmly) to stipulate for the best materials. 

THEODATUS: God's service demands the best materials. 

WILLIAM: But we can effect an economy by making good 

use of local talent, of which I am sure we must possess 

a great deal 

WULFRAM: I am all in favour of local talent. 
WILLIAM: And we may reduce the cost of shipping and 
carriage by the use of certain mechanical devices of my 
own invention, which I need not say I shall be happy to 
place at the disposal of the authorities without extra 

PBIOR: Thank you that is very proper, very generous. 
. . . H'm. Well, Brethren, I think we have now the 
facts before us. If these gentlemen would kindly retire 
for a few moments. . . . 

General movement, GERVASE goes up, right, to door. 
ERNULFHUS (waking with a start) : Eh, what? what? Have 

we finished? 

SILVESTER: No, Father Ernulphus. The architects are retir- 
ing while we deliberate. 
ERNULPHUS: Oh, I see. Very good. 

He falls asleep again. 

HENRY: Two or three years only, Lord Prior say four at 
most and a strict regard for economy. 

Exit HENRY. 

JOHN: Consider, Lord Prior a structure worthy of its 
dedication and safety to life and limb, if you think that 

Exit JOHN. 
WILLIAM: Sir, if I am chosen, I will do my best. 

Exit WILLIAM. GERVASE follows them off. The rest 
examine the plans and documents. 

GABRIEL: The motives of mankind are lamentably mixed. 
RAPHAEL: They mean well, I assure you. 
MICHAEL: Then it is a pity they do not say what they 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 281 

CASSIEL: It is most confusing. I have worn out my pen 

trying to keep up with them. 
GABKIEL: That is easily remedied. Allow me. 

He plucks a feather from his own wing and hands 
it to CASSIEL as GERVASE re-enters and shuts the 

CASSIEL (trimming the feather into a pen): Thank you. 
PRIOR: Well, Brethren? 
SILVESTER: I must say, Master Henry's plan seems rather 

WOLFRAM: He is a Yorkshire man. I would as soon have 

a foreigner as a Yorkshire man, 
STEPHEN: He is too anxious to please. First he says two 

years then three or four. I should not rely on his 

PRIOR: Are we agreed, then, not to appoint Henry of 

York? (The MONKS signify agreement.) Then that leaves 

us the choice between John of Kent and William of 


MICHAEL: What will they make of that? 
CASSIEL: They will choose the man whom God has ap- 

GABRIEL: I shall see to it that they do. 
WULFRAM: Let us have John. He is a local man. 

As the MONKS give their votes, GERVASE notes them 
MARTIN: Yes; his church will attract attention and bring 

people into the town. 
PAUL: Too new-fangled and showy. I am for William. I 

distrust these go-ahead young men. 
HILARY: I have said William all along. 
GERVASE: Clearly William is a great craftsman let us 

choose him. 
THEODATUS: We know nothing about him personally. John 

is a young man of devout life. 
STEPHEN: What has that to do with it? Besides, his manners 

are abominable, I give my voice for William. 
SILVESTER: I like John's plan we haven't seen William's. 


AMBROSE: John's plan looks good from the musician's point 

of view. 

PRIOR: I must not influence you but I admit I am greatly 
impressed by William of Sens. . . . Father Gervase, 
how does the voting stand? 

GERVASE: Five have spolcen for John and five for William. 
GABRIEL: This is where I interfere. 

He goes up into the Chapter-House. 
PRIOR: Somebody has not voted. Who is it? 

Everybody stares round at ERNULPHUS. 
MARTIN: It is Father Ernulphus. 
XHEODATUS: He has been asleep all the time. 

GABRIEL stands behind ERNULPHUS. 
PAUL: He is getting very shaky, poor old soul. 
THEODATUS (loudly in ERNULPHUS' ear) : Father Ernulphus! 
ERNULPHUS (starting into consciousness): Eh? eh? what? 
THEODATUS (shouting in his ear) : Do you vote for John of 

Kent or William of Sens? 
GABRIEL (in his other ear) : William of Sens. 
ERNULPHUS (to THEODATUS) : Eh? Yes, of course. William 
of Sens. Certainly. 

He closes his eyes again. 
THEODATUS (vexed) : He hasn't heard a word. (Loudly) 

Father Ernulphus! 

ERNULPHUS (suddenly alert) : You needn't shout. I'm not 
deaf. I have followed everything very carefully* I said 
William of Sens and I mean William of Sens. 

He shuts his eyes tight with an air of finality. 
THEODATUS: Really, Father Prior! 
STEPHEN: You will never move him now. 

A pause. 

PRIOR: The vote of the Chapter, then, is for William of 
Sens. If there is no further business, the Chapter is 

ALL (rising) : Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and 
to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now 
and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. 
GABRIEL goes up and stands above. 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 283 

PRIOR (as the MONKS begin to file down, left and right) : 
Father Gervase, pray inform the architects of this de- 
cision. Thank those that are not chosen for their pains; 
they shall receive their journey-money from the Father 
Treasurer. Ask Master William to come and see me. No 
time must be lost in putting the work in hand, for the 
night cometh wherein no man can work. 

Exit GERVASE, right, as the PRIOR follows the MONKS 

fi. Be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and 
work; for I am with you, saith the Lord God of Hosts. 
IJT. No man, having put his hand to the plough, and look- 
ing back, is fit for the Kingdom of God. 
^. There is nothing better than that a man should rejoice 

in his own works, for that is his portion. 
ty. Ascribe ye greatness unto our God; He is the Rock, 
His work is perfect. 

Re-enter GERVASE, right, with JOHN, HENRY and 

JOHN (indignantly to WILLIAM) : Trickery, Master William, 
sheer trickery and cheating. You know well enough that 
you cannot restore a single stone of it. 
HENRY (with equal indignation): You will tell any lie in 
order to get the job. You promise economy, and you will 
spend their money like water. It is treacherous it is dis- 

WILLIAM: You would not only promise, you would do them 
a dishonest piece of work. That is treachery, if you like. 
Master Henry. 

HENRY bounces down the steps with an angry excla- 

JOHN: But why must you flatter and fawn on them? Why 
pander to all their ridiculous foibles? Cannot you tell 
them the truth as I do and let the best man win? 
WILLIAM: The trouble with you, my lad, is want of tact. 
You can handle stone, but you can't handle man. You 
* must learn to humour fools if you want to get anything 


JOHN: You stinking fox! 

JOHN joins HENRY, and they go off muttering to- 
gether, sinking their differences in their common 
GERVASE (troubled) : Master William, is it true, what they 


WILLIAM: Listen to me, young man. At my age one learns 
that sometimes one has to damn one's soul for the sake 
of the work. Trust me, God shall have a choir fit for 
His service. Does anything else really matter? 
He and GERVASE follow the others o.'t. 

During the singing of the following Interlude, the 
scene-shifters set the stage to represent the site of 
the choir. The other three ANGELS go up and stand 
above with GABRIEL. 

Every carpenter and workmaster that laboureth night 

and day, and they that give themselves to counterfeit 

imagery, and watch to finish a work; 

The smith also sitting by the anvil, and considering the 

iron work, he setteth his mind to finish his work, and 

watcheth to polish it perfectly. 

So doth the potter sitting at his work, and turning the 

wheel about with his feet, who is always carefully set 

at his work, and maketh all his work by number. 

All these trust to tibeir hands, and every one is wise in 

his work. 

Without these cannot a city be inhabited, and they 

shall not dwell where they will nor go up and down; 

They shall not be sought for in public council, nor sit 

high in the congregation; 

But they will maintain the state of the world, and aP 

their desire is in the work of their craft. 

n: About two years have passed since the previous scene. 
WORKMEN go in and out, fetching tools and barrows -from 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 285 

door, left, which appears to lead to some kind of office or 
store-room, and earn/ing out, right, blocks of dressed stone 
on hand-barrows, etc. About half a dozen LAY BROTHERS 
and WORKMEN remain to work on the stage. A general tm- 
pression of bustle and movement is accentuated by the 
entrance of a number of respectably dressed piLGRiMS t 
chattering like jackdaws, right. 

PILGRIMS (they enter by twos and threes, gape vaguely 
about and pass on and out by way of the steps) : Beau- 
tiful, beautiful; and everything in such good taste. . . . 
I wonder what it costs to keep the shrine going in 
candles. . . . Two years they've been building now 
goodness knows how long it's going to take. . . . Dic- 
kon, you bad boy, leave that saw alone. . . . Who did 
you say the architect was? Wilfrid somebody? ... My 
poor, dear husband such a sad sufferer I was deter- 
mined to make the pilgrimage. ... No doubt, it will 
be all very fine when it's finished, but I don't think it's 
a patch on Lincoln. . . . Shocking bad dinners they 
give you at the "Lamb" you'd better come and have 
a bite with us. ... I beg your pardon, madam, was 
that your foot? Ah, the poor, dear, martyred Archbishop! 
Such a charming man. I saw him when he came back 
from France yes, really, he was as close to me as I 
am to you. . . . Have you heard the one about the three 
fat friars and the tinker's widow? Well, there were three 
begging friars. ... So I said to her, 'Very well, you 
may take your wages and go." ... It came to me as 
I was kneeling there that God would most surely have 
pity upon my sister. ... I must say it comes out more 
i expensive than I'd reckoned for. And I was abominably 
cheated that night we lay at Rochester. . . . The King 
must be a very naughty man to have killed the poor 
Archbishop. . . . There! I told you it was only putting 
ideas into the child's head. . . . Bad business, that fire, 
and if you ask me, I don't believe the true story ever 
came out. . . . Yes, darling, ever so sorry barefoot in 


a white sheet. . . . Indeed, I have a very great devo- 
tion to St. Thomas. . . . This Purbeck marble's all the 
rage, but I don't care about it myself , . . etc., etc. 

They trail away, still chattering. During the con- 
fusion, GERVASE and WILLIAM have made their 
entrances, right, GERVASE crossing the stage and 
vanishing into doorway, left, while WILLIAM sits at 
a trestle-table, centre, and waits resignedly for his 
workshop to get clear. As the stage empties, the 
ANGELS come down again and take up their former 


Two years of toil are passed; what shall I write 
About this architect? 


A schedule here, 

Long as my sword, crammed full of deadly sins; 
Jugglings with truth, and gross lusts of the body, 
Drink, drabbing, swearing; slothfulness in prayer; 
With a devouring, insolent ambition 
That challenges disaster. 


These are debts; 

What shall I set upon the credit side? 


Six columns, and their aisles, with covering vaults 
From wall to arcading, and from thence again 
To the centre, with the keystones locking them, 
All well and truly laid without a fault. 


No sum of prayer to balance the account? 


Ask Raphael, for prayers are in his charge. 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 2,87 


Come, Raphael, speak; or is thy censer cold? 
Canst thou indeed find any grace in William 
The builder-up of Canterbury? 


He swings his censer, which gives out a cloud of 

Behold, he prayeth; not with the lips alone, 
But with the hand and with the cunning brain 
Men worship the Eternal Architect. 
So, when the mouth is dumb, the work shall speak 
And save the workman. True as mason's rule 
And line can make them, the shafted columns rise 
Singing like music; and by day and night 
The unsleeping arches with perpetual voice 
Proclaim in Heaven, to labour is to pray. 

MICHAEL: Glory to God, that made the Firmament! 
Enter GERVASE, left . 

GERVASE: Here are the letters for you to sign, Master 
William. These to Caen, about the next shipment of 
stone; these to Dover, with instructions for the unload- 
ing and carriage. I have mentioned the matter of the 
damaged crane and told them it must be made good 
at their own expense. 

Hands pen and inkhorn. 

WILLIAM: Thanks, Father Gervase. 
Signs letters. 

GERVASE: This is the invoice for the oak roofing-beams. 
And there is an enclosure I can't quite understand. 
Something about the commission. 

WILLIAM (hastily): That has no business to be there. 
Idiots! It refers to a private transaction. Give it to me. 
I will deal with it myself. Anything more? 
Taking paper and pocketing it. 

GERVASE: Do you mind looking at this consignment note? 
We seem to be fifty scaffold-poles short; but I will have 
them checked again. 

WILLIAM: Good. I can trust you to get it put in order. I 


don't know what we should have done these two years 
without your vigilant eye and skilful pen. 

GERVASE: I wish I could do more to help. But my hands 
are no good for anything but writing. I should have 
loved to take a more active part in the work. (Smiling.) 
I must be content to be the man with only one talent, 
and make it go as far as I can. 
Enter HUBERT, right. 

WILLIAM: If every one would make good use of his own 
talent and let others do the same, the world would move 
faster. Well, Brother Hubert, what's the trouble? 

HUBERT: Well, sir, if you'd kindly take a look at this here 
kst lot of lime (presenting specimens of lime and mortar 
on a shovel) . If lime you can call it. What they've done 
to it I dont know, but it don't seem to have no body in 
it as you might say. It don't bind right. You should hear 
what my lads has to say about it. 

WILLIAM: Yes. Poor slack stuff. Where did this come 

GERVASE: From Jocelyn's. You remember, the Father Treas- 
urer wanted the order given to them. He said Thomas 
Clay's price was excessive. 

WILLIAM: I wish the Father Treasurer would allow me to 
know my own job. Tell him no, don't tell him any- 
thing. Order in a fresh lot from Thomas Clay's as before, 
instructing him to charge it up at Jocelyn's price and 
send me a private note of the difference. We can adjust 
it on that timber account. Do you understand? If these 
timber merchants are knaves enough to offer me a five 
per cent commission for giving them the contract and 
Father Stephen is fool enough to grudge a few pounds 
extra for first-class material, all right. We play off the 
knave against the fool, get what we want, and save argu- 
HUBERT: Ay, that's so. What the Father Treasurer don't 

see won't worry him. 
GERVASE: But is it honest? 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 289 

HUBERT: All I know is, this here lime ain't honest. Prior 
Wibert, him as built the Water-Tower, wouldn't never 
have asked his masons to put up with cheap rubbish 
like this here. 

WILLIAM (to GERVASE) : No, of course it's not honest. And 
it's not exactly safe. That is, it's liable to misconstruc- 
tion, if proclaimed upon the housetops. But the Lord 
commended the unjust steward. 

HUBERT: You can't make bricks without straw, nor yet 
mortar without lime. And if Prior Wibert, rest his soul, 
was alive, he'd say the same. 

WILLIAM: Cheer up, little churchman. Take thy bill and 
sit down quickly and write fifty. Nobody's robbing the 

Exit GERVASE, left, still a trifle unhappy about it. 
H'm. Unfortunate. Hell lie awake all night wrestling 
with his conscience, and probably let the whole thing 
out to the Father Treasurer. Can't be helped. Sufficient 
for the day. . . . How about the new arch? D'you 
think she's settled in? Yd like to get those supports out 

HUBERT: Been over every inch of her, sir, and I think she'll 
do. We're getting the tackle up now. 

WILLIAM: Let me know when you're ready; I don't want 
anything started till I come. What do you think of the 
plan for the roof and clerestory? 

HUBERT: Grand, sir, grand. I only wish Prior Wibert, good 
man, was alive to see it. Always a man for new ideas, 
was Prior Wibert. Ah! He'd have loved that tall shaft- 
ing and the way the cross-ribbing is made to carry the 
span. "Mark my words, Hubert/' he used to say to me, 
"the arch is die secret of building. We ain't half learned 
yet," he'd say, "what the arch can carry when it's put 
to it." 

WILLIAM: He was right, there. But we're finding out* 
We're finding out every day. Greece never guessed it; 
Some only half understood it; but our sons will know in- 


the years to come. (With rising excitement.) We all 
have our dreams, Hubert. Churches we shall never live 
to see. Arch shouldering arch, shaft, vault and keystone, 
window and arcading, higher and wider and lighter, 
lifting roof, tower, spire, into the vault of heaven 
columns slender as lily-stalks walls only a framework 
for the traceries living fountains of stone 

HUBERT: That's so, Master, that's so. That's the way to 
build. Each stone carrying his neighbour's burden, as 
you might say. 

WILLIAM: A triumph of balance, eh, Hubert? A delicate 
adjustment of interlocking stresses. Look! there was an 
idea came into my head last night. 
He sketches on a block of stone. 
Enter STEPHEN and MARTIN, right. 

STEPHEN: Well, I must say, it's rather inconsiderate. Still, 
we mustn't let the opportunity slip. 

MARTIN: Certainly not; rich benefactors have to be 
humored. Nobody knows that better than he does. 
Will you tackle him? 

STEPHEN: If you like. Er Master William! 

WILLIAM: What can I do for you, Father Treasurer? 

STEPHEN: Forgive me for interrupting you I know you're 
very busy, but the fact is, we have a visitor 

MARTIN: Rather an important visitor. 

STEPHEN: The Lady Ursula de Warbois 

Enter THEODATUS, right. He has his sleeves tucked 
up, and a coarse apron over his habit, and carries 
a trowel 

MARTIN: We had been hoping she would come 

STEPHEN: She has just arrived and asked to see the Father 

MARTIN: She is with him now. Father Theodatus, have 
you heard? The Lady Ursula is with the Father Prior! 


He goes across to speak to one of the WORKMEN. 

WILLIAM: Come, sirs. All this excitement is scarcely be- 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 291 

coming to your cloth. Is the lady young and beautiful? 

And what is she doing with the Father Prior, or he with 


WORKMEN snigger. 

THEODATUS: Master William! Pray control your tongue. 
WILLIAM: There! you see you have shocked Father Theo- 

STEPHEN: The Lady Ursula is the widow of an exceedingly 

wealthy knight. 
MARTIN: She has come to reside in Canterbury; and has 

several times expressed interest in the work. To-day 

she has come and wants to see over the new choir 

STEPHEN: If she is pleased with what she sees, she will 

probably be good for a handsome subscription. 
WILLIAM: Oh, very well. Take her where you like. Bettei 

stand clear of the new arch, though. We're going to gel 

the supports out, and it might come down. You never 

know eh, Hubert? 
HUBERT: That's right. You never know. 
STEPHEN: Yes but the point is, she particularly wants to 

meet the architect and be shown round personally. 
MARTIN: She wants to see the plans, and have everything 

explained to her. 
WILLIAM: T'cha! women always want explanations. But 

they never listen, and wouldn't understand a word if 

they did. I've no use for women not in working hours. 
THEODATUS (gloomily) : The curse came by a woman. 
WILLIAM: Well if it comes to that, so did you, Father 

HUBERT: That's right. Women are a curse but we can't 

get into the world, nor on in the world without *em. 
MARTIN: Well, Master William, I'm sure you will oblige 

her. People always like to talk to the architect. The 

human touch, you know. It's always good publicity. 
WILLIAM: Oh, very well, I suppose one must make one's 

self a martyr to publicity. Go and keep an eye on the 

lads, Hubert; 111 come as soon as I'm free. 


Going, STEPHEN and MARTIN offer to accompany 

No, thanks. I can find my own way. Don't you run your 
heads into temptation. Sed libera nos a malo deliver 
us from the apple and all its consequences. 
Exit, right, with HUBERT. 

STEPHEN: Dear me! I hope he will behave with discretion. 

MARTIN: Never fear. He can bridle his tongue when he 
likes. He is a politic man. Remember how he persuaded 
us into the expense of re-building. 

STEPHEN: Yes we have had some experience of his policy. 
Well he wheedled money out of us; let him now whee- 
dle it out of the Lady Ursula. 

MARTIN: At any rate, he is a first-class workman. He gives 
us good value for our money. 

STEPHEN: Does he? I hope he does. Sometimes I have my 
doubts. From something one of the carriers let fall the 
other day, I am inclined to suspect him of some ir- 

MARTIN: Oh, surely not! The accounts all go through your 
hands and the correspondence through those of Father 

STEPHEN: Father Gervase? Do you think a crafty old fox 
like that hasn't the wit to hoodwink a young and inno- 
cent churchman like Father Gervase? Is he in the office, 
by the way? I am inclined to give him a caution. (Call- 
ing left.) Father Gervase! 

GERVASE (emerging, left, with letters) : Yes, Father Ste- 

STEPHEN: Tell me; since you have been handling Master 
William's letters, have you ever had any reason to sus- 
pect any financial irregularities? 

GERVASE (taken aback) : Financial irregularities? 

STEPHEN: Tampering with the estimates? Fudging the ac- 
counts? Pocketing commissions and that sort of thing? 
Doing little deals on the side? 

GERVASE (recovering himself; with confidence) : I am quite 
positive, Father Stephen, that Master William has never 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 293 

cheated the Church of a single penny, and never would. 
He thinks of nothing, lives for nothing, but the integrity 
of his work. If you knew him as well as I do, working 
with him these two years, you would be sure of that. 

STEPHEN: I am glad to hear it. But keep your eyes open. I 
have heard stories, and I am not altogether satisfied. 

GERVASE: Would it not be better to speak openly to Master 
William himself? 

THEODATUS: Of course it would; but they are afraid to. 
Why? Because the man has managed to get the ear of 
the Father Prior and because they don't want him to 
throw up the job in the middle and because, having 
once put their hands to dirty tools, they don't know how 
to draw back. (To STEPHEN and MARTIN) No man can 
serve God and mammon. God's House should be built 
with prayer. You are trying to build it with worldly wis- 
dom and worldly lucre. Look at all those pilgrims! How 
many of them have clean hands and pure hearts? 

MARTIN: We cannot see into their hearts. 

THEODATUS: Have you listened to their talk? One in ten 
may be sincere. The rest are idle men and gadding 
women, making pilgrimage an excuse for a holiday trip 
compounding for old sins by committing new ones. 
All they come for is to drink and gossip in alehouses, 
tell each other dirty stories, pick up loose companions, 
waste their own time and other people's, and gabble 
through a few perfunctory prayers at top speed, so as 
to have more time for sight-seeing. 

GERVASE: Are you not a little uncharitable? 

STEPHEN: Most of them are very worthy people. And after 
all, we can't do without their money. 

THEODATUS: If you had faith, you could. You degrade the 
Church by these vulgar and dubious methods of pub- 

MARTIN: Really, Father Theodatus! This is monstrous. The 
Father Prior himself entrusted me with the publicity 
side of the appeal. I have taken great pains to get these 


pilgrimages properly advertised. And this is my re- 

GERVASE: Brethren! brethren! All the workmen are listen- 
ing to you. 

Enter WILLIAM, right, with URSULA. 

MARTIN: Let them listen! 

THEODATUS: I do not care who hears me! 

WILLIAM: Pray, madam, mind your head the doorway is 
rather low. One step down. Allow me. This is just a little 
corner of our workshop, where Walter! Hugh! Si- 
mon! Is nobody doing any work to-day? Do you take it 
for the Feast of St. Lazybones? (The WORKMEN hur- 
riedly return to their tasks.) Walter that corner is out 
of true. And here, you! Is that the way to treat your 
tools? ... I beg your pardon, madam. The moment 
my back is turned, everything seems to come to a stand- 

URSULA: No wonder. Without the heart, how can the limbs 
do their office? You are the heart of the undertaking. 

WILLIAM (formally) : It is very good of you to say so. I 
think you know Father Stephen, the Treasurer? Father 
Martin, the Guest-Brother? Father Theodatus, the Sac- 
ristan? And Father Gervase, who is Clerk and Historian 
to the Chapter, and is good enough to deal with my cor- 
respondence in his spare time. (To GERVASE) Have 
those letters gone? 

GERVASE: I am just taking them to the messenger. 
Exit GERVASE, right. 

MARTIN: And what, madam, do you think of our Cathe- 

URSULA: I think it must be the most beautiful in the world. 
And how glorious the new choir will be when it is fin- 
ished! Master William has described it all to me and has 
promised to show me all his plans and drawings. That 
was a promise, was it not, Master William? 

WILLIAM: Certainly if you are really interested. 

URSULA: Of course I am interested. I am glad I have come 
to live in Canterbury. It will be so exciting to watch the 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 295 

work going on from day to day, A widow needs an in- 
terest in life. And it will be a great comfort to live under 
the protection of blessed St. Thomas. 
MARTIN: Thousands of the suffering and bereaved have 
already found healing and consolation by his benign in- 
tervention. Only a few weeks ago, out of a large congre- 
gation of worshippers who attended a special serv- 

Bell begins to ring. MONKS enter, right, and -file 
across the stage and down the steps. WORKMEN lay 
down their tools and go out, right y with dinner- 
THEODATUS: That is the bell for nones. 

Exit down steps. 
MARTIN: I will tell you presently about the special service. 

Exeunt STEPHEN and MARTIN down steps. 
WILLIAM: Do you propose to attend nones? The lower part 

of the nave is available for the laity. 
URSULA: No; I propose to see those drawings of yours. 
WILLIAM: I do not think you came here to see architec- 
tural drawings. 
URSULA: I came to see the architect. (Pause.) Did you 

realise this was not the first time we had met? 
WILLIAM: I realised it perfectly. I had the honour to pick 

up your glove yesterday in the market-place. 
URSULA: I was much indebted to you for the courtesy. 
WILLIAM: I was much indebted to you for the opportunity ,. 
I am an opportunist. So, I fancy, are you. We have 
that much in common. 
URSULA: Is that an impertinence, I wonder? 
URSULA: I ought to be offended with you. 


If you are wise, you will be. Let us be plain. 
The first time our eyes met, we knew one another 
As fire knows tinder. You have seen what havoc 
Fire works. Let be. 



I do not fear the fire. 


My fire should be a lamp to light the world, 

Fed with my life, consuming only me; 

Will you not learn that it is perilous 

To pky with fire? That it is death to come 

Between the man and the work? In one man's lifa 

Is room for one love and no more one love; 

I am in love with a dream. 


Tell me your dreams 

Sitting by the fire, seeing pictures in the fire, 
Visions and dreams. 


Your old men shall dream dreams 
And your young men see visions but not your women. 
What use have women for the dreams of a man 
Save to destroy them? What does a woman know 
Of the love of knowledge, passing the love of women? 
The passion of making, beside which love's little passion 
Shows brittle as a bubble? To raise up beauty from 


Like the splendour of resurrection; to see the stone 
Knit unto stone and growing, as in the womb 
Bone grows to bone; to build a world out of nothing 
That is my dream; that is the craftsman's dream, 
The power and the glory, the kingdom of God and 


Of man, never of woman. Women create 
Passively, borne on a wind of lust, for a whim, 
At the caprice of a man, in a smile, in a spasm 
Of the flesh; we, with the will, with the blood, with the 

All the desire of the soul, the intent of the mind. 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 297 

Now do you understand what my dreams are 
And why they are not for you? 


I understand. 

Knowledge and work knowledge is given to man 
And not to woman; and the glory o work 
To man and not to woman. But by whom 
Came either work or knowledge into the world? 
Not by the man. God said, "Ye shall not know; 
Knowledge is death." And Adam was afraid. 
But Eve, careless of peril, careless of death, 
Hearing the promise, "Ye shall be as gods/* 
Seized knowledge for herself, and for the man, 
And all the sons of men; knowledge, like God; 
Power to create, like God; and, unlike God, 
Courage to die. And the reward for her 
Was sorrow; but for Adam the reward 
Was work of which he now contrives to boast 
As his peculiar glory, and in one breath 
Denies it to the woman and blames her for it, 
Winning the toss both ways. My simple Adam, 
It is too late to scare woman with risks 
And perils woman, that for one splendid risk 
Changed the security of Paradise, 
Broke up the loom and pattern of creation, 
Let in man's dream on the world, and snatched the 


Of knowledge from the jealous hand of God 
So that the fire runs in man's blood for ever. 

WILLIAM (carried away) : 

So that she runs like fire in a man's blood 

For ever! Take what thou wilt the risk, the sorrow, 

The fire, the dream and in the dream's end, death. 


Thus Eve cast down the gauntlet in God's face: 
"My will for Thine; man's purpose against God's; 


Slay me and slay the man, slay all my seed, 

But let man's knowledge and man's work go on." 


Thus God took up the gauntlet in Eve's face. 
Having, like man, courage to look on death: 
"My Son for thy sons, and God's blood for man's; 
Crucify God, but let the work go on." 


By man came sin. 


O felix culpa, quae 
Talis et tanti meruit Redemptoris! 

HUBERT (off): Master William! Master William! 
WILLIAM: There! that means work. You see what happens 

when one starts this kind of thing. Go now. They are 

coming out of church. Quickly or we shall have Father 

Martin and the special service all over again. I will 

come to your lodging after supper. 
URSULA (on the steps) : Bringing your dreams with you. 

Exit down steps. Enter HUBERT, right. 
HUBERT: Master! The arch is ready when you are. 
WILLIAM: I am coming. Work, Hubert, work. Sometimes 

one persuades one's self that it all means something to 

HUBERT: Do you think the gracious lady will be moved to 

contribute to the building fund? 
WILLIAM: H'm. I had forgotten that aspect of the matter. 

Yes I shouldn't be surprised if she did. 
HUBERT: The blessed saints be praised for it. 
WILLIAM: I wonder! 

Exeunt WILLIAM and HUBERT, right. 
THE YOUNG CHERUB (suddenly): Why did God create 

mankind in two different sorts, if it makes so much 


The ANGELS are inexpressibly shocked. 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 299 

RAPHAEL: Hush! you mustn't ask Why. 

MICHAEL: Angels never ask Why. 

GABRIEL: Only men ask Why. 

CASSIEL: And you see what happened to them, just for ask- 
ing Why. 

MICHAEL: Do you want to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, 
like Adam and Eve? 

GABRIEL: And find Michael there, with his big sword? 

RAPHAEL: And put our Master to the trouble and pain of 
another crucifixion? 

CASSIEL: Or start another war, like that lost brother whom 
we must not name? 

ALL: Criticising God's creation! I never heard of such a 

CHOIR: Shall we that are but worms, but silk-worms, but 
glow-worms, chide God that He hath made slow-worms, 
and other venomous creeping things? 
Shall we that are all discord, quarrel the harmony of His 
creation or His providence? 

Can an apothecary make a sovereign treacle of vipers 
and other poisons, and cannot God admit offences and 
scandals into His physic? 

As soon as he had made light (which was His first crea- 
ture) He took pleasure in it; He said it was good; He 
was glad of it; glad of the sea, glad of the earth, glad of 
the sun, and moon, and stars, and He said of every one, 
It is good. 

in: The scene is as before; two more years have passed; 
WALTER, HUGH and GEOFFREY, lay workmen, are engaged 
in polishing marble rather up-stage. 

Enter SIMON, right, and crosses to door, left. 

SIMON (sings): 

The animals went in two by two, 
Hey, ho, nonny! 


Said the dog, Bow-wow! said the cat, Mew, mew! 
Spring is the time for love! 

Exit left. 
WALTER: Spring, indeed! I wish the spring were here. It 

hasn't stopped raining for three months. 
HUGH: More like four. We've had vile weather ever since 

the eclipse last September. What a climate! 
WALTER: I knew that eclipse meant bad luck. 
GEOFFREY: Well, it's not raining to-day. 
HUGH: Bad luck? If we never get worse luck than a bit of 

bad weather, I don't care how many eclipses we have. 
WALTER: We ain't heard the last of the eclipse yet, mark 

my words. 

HUGH: You and your prophecies! What are you grumbling 
about? Job's going well enough, ain't it? Four years, and 
here we've finished the triforium and the clerestory, and 
the key of the great arch will be put in to-day. Not too 
bad, in four years. 

Re-enter SIMON, left, trundling a coil of rope, 
wound on a drum. 

GEOFFREY: Ah! he's a good worker, is Master William. And 

a fast worker. Knows what he's about. He's the sort of 

master I can do with. Strict, and drives you like the 

devil, but I don't mind that. 

HUGH: That's right. I respect a master that's a good worker. 

When Master William works, he works. 
WALTER: And when he plays (with a meaning grin), he 

plays! Him and the Lady Ursula! 

HUGH: Well, I don't mind that, either. That's their affair. 
SIMON: Quite right, Hugh. The day for labour and the 
night for sleep. 
(Sings) Two by two they went into the ark, 

Hey, ho, nonnyl 

The doors were shut, they were all in the dark, 
Spring is the time for love! 

GEOFFREY: She's somewhere about the place now. 
WALTER: Who is? Lady Ursula? 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 301 

GEOFFREY: Yes. Takes a lot of interest. Always putting up 
a bit o* prayer, or coming to see how the job's getting 
on, or calling on the Father Treasurer with a little dona- 
tion to something. 

SIMON (sings) : 

But when old Noah opened the door, 

Hey, ho, nonny! 
They all came out by three and four, 

Spring is the time for love! 

Enter PRIOR and THEODATUS, right . 

HUGH: It's a wonder the good fathers don't see through it. 
GEOFFREY: Maybe they do. Maybe it pays them to wink 

t'other eye. Lady Ursula's rich. It don't do to offend 

rich folks. 

THEODATUS: You hear that, Father Prior? 
WALTER: All the same, mark my words, no good will come 

of it. That eclipse wasn't sent for nothing. 
HUGH: Ah, come off it. You and your eclipse! 

SIMON (sings): 

Who d'ye think had been playing tricks? 

Hey, ho, nonny! 
They went in two and they came out six, 

Spring is the time for love! 

THEODATUS: For shame, my son, for shame! We cannot 
have these lewd songs here. 

He comes down past SIMON to the steps, with the 

SIMON: Sorry, Father. 

He goes out, left. 


So it goes on, Father, day after day 

Songs in the workshop, sniggering in the dortour, 

Unbecoming gossip among the novices, 

Heads wagged in the market-place, and tales going round 


In the ale-house, fingers pointed everywhere 
At William of Sens, the Cathedral architect 
A notorious evil liver, a seducer of women, 
A taker of bribes 

PRIOR (mildly): 

That was not proved, I fancy. 


A cunning liar, that boasts of pulling the wool 

Over the eyes of the fat, innocent monks; 

A man without truth, without shame. It is not 

It is not right. 


You must not say, without truth, 
Lest you should hear the very stones cry out 
Against you. Truth is glorious; but there is one 
Glory of the sun, another of the moon, 
And all the truth of the craftsman is in his craft. 
Where there is truth, there is God; and where there is 

There is God's glory too. 

KHEODATUS (sullenly): 

Craft is the word. 

We could do better without William's craft 
In more ways than in one. I would rather have 
A worse-built church with a more virtuous builder. 


Make God the loser for your conscience' sake? 

This is God's House, and if on any pretext 

We give him less than the best, we shall cheat God 

As William never cheated God, nor us. 

He that bestowed the skill and the desire 

To do great work is surely glad to see 

That skill used in His service. 

SAYERS: The Zed of Thy House 303 


Skill is not all. 

The kingdom of Heaven is won by righteousness, 
Not skill. He cannot wish His work performed 
Save with clean hands and a pure heart. 


My son, 

Will you not let God manage His own business? 
He was a carpenter, and knows His trade 
Better, perhaps, than we do, having had 
Some centuries of experience; nor will He, 
Like a bad workman, blame the tools wherewith 
He builds His City of Zion here on earth. 
For God founded His Church, not upon John, 
The loved disciple, that lay so close to His heart 
And knew His mind not upon John, but Peter; 
Peter the liar, Peter the coward, Peter 
The rock, the common man. John was all gold, 
And gold is rare; the work might wait while God 
Ransacked the corners of the earth to find 
Another John; but Peter is the stone 
Whereof the world is made. So stands the Church, 
Stone upon stone, and Christ the corner-stone 
Carved of the same stuff, common flesh and blood, 
With you, and me, and Peter; and He can, 
Being the alchemist's stone, the stone of Solomon, 
Turn stone to gold, and purge the gold itself 
From dross, till all is gold. 


To purge to burn! 
He makes His ministers a flaming fee 
And are not we His Ministers? Shall not we 
Lay axe to the rotten root, trunk, branch? destroy, 
Make bonfire of this scandal in the Church 
And burn God's honour clean? 



God is a man, 

And can defend His honour, being full-grown 
In wisdom and in stature. We need not 
Play nursemaid to the Babe of Bethlehem 
To shield Him from the harlot and the thief, 
Or keep those tender, innocent hands from harm 
That bear the sharp nails' imprint, and uphold 
The axis of the spheres. He can touch dirt 
Without defilement, for Himself hath said, 
"What I have cleansed, that call not thou unclean." 


But while His laws are broken in our sight 

Must we stand by, and smile, and still do nothing? 


Do your own work, while yet the daylight lasts. 
Look that it be well done; look not beyond it. 
I charge you, on your holy obedience, 
Set charity as a bridle on your tongue; 
Talk not of William's nor another's faults, 
Unless to God, Who hears but spreads no scandal. 
Of this be sure: who will not have the Gospel 
Shall have the Law; but in God's time, not ours. 

Enter SIMON by door, left, carrying a small wind- 

SIMON (bursting irrepressibly into song) : 
Every bird had found her mate, 

Hey, ho, nonny! 

They all came out by seven and eight, 
Spring is the time for love! 

He sets the windlass down, centre. Enter WILLIAM, 
WILLIAM: You are merry, Simon. Is that the rope to rig the 

travelling cradle? 
SIMON: Yes, sir. 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 305 

WILLIAM: See that every inch of it is well tested before I 
go up. I'm not as young or as light as I was. Good morn- 
ing, Father Prior. Ah! Father Theodatus, you are just the 
man I was looking for. Pray will you help Simon to test 
that rope? It is to hoist me up to the top of the great 
arch, and I have a value for my neck. 

THEODATUS: Oh, by all means. 
Moving up, left. 

WILLIAM: Simon is a good lad enough, but I would rather 
trust your vigilance. Young men's minds are apt to run 

During the following dialogue, THEODATUS takes 
the free end of the rope and begins to wind it off on 
to the windlass. SIMON stands by the drum, so that, 
as the rope is slowly wound off, they can both ex- 
amine it for flaws. They occupy the stage from 
centre to left. 

PKIOR: Young men are not alone in that, Master William. 
The talk of the town comes to our ears sometimes, dull- 
witted old churchmen though we be. It seems that even 
a master architect may find interests outside his work. 

WILLIAM: Outside his working hours, Father Prior. 

PRIOR: I quite appreciate that. My dear son, as your father 
in God I might find many things to say to you. . . . 

WILLIAM: But as a man of the world you doubt whether I 
should listen. It is a rare virtue to refrain even from good 

PRIOR: Then I will speak only as a man of the world and 
urge the value of discretion. 

WILLIAM: Father Theodatus would say, of hypocrisy. 

PRIOR: Father Theodatus is not your employer. The Church 
is your employer, and it is my duty to speak for the 

WILLIAM: Very well. As my employer, to use your own 
blunt term, what fault have you to find with my private 

PRIOR: This; that instead of attending to their work, your 
workmen waste their time in gossip and backbiting about 


you. If you choose to be damned, you must; if you pre- 
fer to make a death-bed repentance, you may; but if an 
idle workman does an unsound job now, no repentance 
of yours will prevent it from bringing down the church 
some day or other. 

WILLIAM (after a pause) : You are quite right. I congratu- 
late you. You have found the one argument to which I 
am bound to listen. Were you a diplomat before you 
were a churchman? 

PRIOR: Perhaps. 

Exit, right. 

WILLIAM (looking after him) : Or a soldier. The old man's 
a hard hitter and knows where to plant his blows. (He 
goes up, back, to overlook the work of WALTER and GEOF- 
FREY, speaking to THEODATUS and SIMON as he goes) : 
Test it with the eye and the hand don't trust to either 


Are there no fires in Heaven, that every man 
With his own hand, upon the anvil of sin 
Forges the sword of judgment? Gabriel, Raphael, 
There is a sword in the making; look you to it. 

RAPHAEL goes up and stands near THEODATUS, cen- 
tre, and GABRIEL near SIMON, left. 
$. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the 

evil and the good. 
f$. Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God 


if. He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good; 
IJT. And sendeth rain upon the just and unjust. 

Enter URSULA, right. 
URSULA: William! 

WILLIAM (turning quickly and coming to meet her) : Ah! 
You have come at a very good moment. 

He leads her forward to the steps. 
SIMON (watching them with interest) : Oho! look at that! 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 307 

WILLIAM: We are just about to put in the key of the great 


THEODATUS: Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity! 
WILLIAM: If you will stand here presently and watch, you 

will see me fly up to the top of the scaffold in a machine 

of my own devising and down again, like blessed St. 

Paul in a basket! 

THEODATUS (hastily with averted eyes) : 
Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis; 
Sancta Dei genetrix, ora pro nobis; 
Sancta Virgo virginum, ora pro nobis. 

RAPHAEL sets his censer gently swinging. 

URSULA: How amusing! I hope it is safe. 

SIMON (over his shoulder to GEOFFREY): More headaches 
for Father Martin! He don't like these goings-on. Says 
they look bad, and shock influential patrons. 

WILLIAM: Never fear for that. But, hark'ee we're in dis- 
grace with the Prior. 


Mater castissima, ora pro nobis; 
Mater inviolata, ora pro nobis; 
Mater intemerata, ora pro nobis. 

URSULA: Oh! I ought not to have come. 

WILLIAM: That was my fault. I asked you. I wanted you 

GABRIEL: Take care, Simon! There is a flaw in the rope. 

SIMON, with his eyes on WILLIAM and URSULA, pays 

no attention. 

SIMON (sings): 

The cat, the rat, the sow, the hen, 

Hey, ho, nonny! 

They all came out by nine and ten, 
Spring is the time for love! 


The rope rum through his heedless fingers. GABRIEL 
makes a despairing gesture, and looks across at 
RAPHAEL. The scandalised THEODATUS continues to 
pray with his eyes tight shut. 


Virgo veneranda, ora pro nobis; 
Virgo praedicanda, ora pro nobis; 
Virgo potens, ora pro nobis. 

URSULA: What does the Prior complain of? Scandal in the 

WILLIAM: Something like that. 


Vas honorabile, ora pro nobis; 

Vas insigne devotionis, ora pro nobis ; 

Rosa mystica, ora pro nobis. 

RAPHAEL: Take care, Theodatus! There is a flaw in the 


Turns Davidica, ora pro nobis; 
Tunis eburnea, ora pro nobis; 
Domus aurea, ora pro nobis. 

RAPHAEL -flings away the censer, which rolls clang- 
ing down the steps. The rope, flaw and all, is wound 

URSULA: At least he cannot say that you think more of me 

than of your work. 
WILLIAM: No, he has not said that. 


Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, parce nobis Do- 

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, exaudi nos, Do- 

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis. 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 309 
The rope is now all wound off. 

URSULA: He will not take the work away from you? 

WILLIAM: He is too shrewd for that. Besides, God would 
not let him; He has put me here and will keep me here. 
Prior or no Prior. 

WORKMAN (putting his head in at the door, below'): Mas- 
ter Hubert says, is that rope ready? 

SIMON: Here you are, mate. 

He picks up the windlass and takes it down to 
WORKMAN, who carries it out. 

URSULA: Do we presume too much upon God's mercy? 


We are the master-craftsmen, God and I 

We understand one another. None, as I can, 

Can creep under the ribs of God, and feel 

His heart beat through those Six Days of Creation; 

Enormous days of slowly turning lights 

Streaking the yet unseasoned firmament; 

Giant days, Titan days, yet all too short 

To hold the joy of making. God caught His breath 

To see the poles of the world stand up through chaos; 

And when He sent it forth, the great winds blew, 

Carrying the clouds. And then He made the trees 

For winds to rustle through oak, poplar, cedar, 

Hawthorn and elm, each with its separate motion 

And with His delicate fingers painted the flowers. 

Numberless numberless! why make so many 

But that He loved the work, as I love mine, 

And saw that it was good, as I see mine? 

The supple, swift mechanics of the serpent, 

The beautiful, furred beasts, and curious fish 

With golden eyes and quaintly-laced thin bones, 

And whales like mountains loud with spurting springs - 

Dragons and monsters in strange shapes, to make 

His angels laugh with Him; when He saw those 

God sang for joy, and formed the birds to sing. 


And lastly, since all Heaven was not enough 
To share that triumph, He made His Masterpiece, 
Man, that like God can call beauty from dust, 
Order from chaos, and create new worlds 
To praise their maker. Oh, but in making man 
God over-reached Himself and gave away 
His Godhead. He must now depend on man 
For what man's brain, creative and divine 
Can give Him. Man stands equal with Him now, 
Partner and rival. Say God needs a church, 
As here in Canterbury and say He calls together 
By miracle stone, wood and metal, builds 
A church of sorts; my church He cannot make 
Another, but not that. This church is mine 
And none but I, not even God, can build it. 
Me hath He made vice-gerent of Himself, 
And were I lost, something unique were lost 
Irreparably; my heart, my blood, my brain 
Are in the stone; God's crown of matchless works 
Is not complete without my stone, my jewel, 
Creation's nonpareil. 


Hush! God will hear you 
The priests say He is jealous. Tempt Him not 
Lest He should smite and slay. 


He will not dare; 
He knows that I am indispensable 
To His work here; and for the work's sake, He, 
Cherishing, as good masons do, His tools, 
Will keep me safe. When the last stone is laid 
Then may He use me as He will; I care not; 
The work is all; when that is done, good night 
My life till then is paramount with God. 


You make me shake to hear you. Blasphemy! blasphemy! 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 311 


Sound sense. Fear nothing. I must leave you now; 
The work waits for me, and that must not be; 
Idleness is the only sin. Like God 
I must be doing in my little world, 
Lest, lacking me, the moon and stars should fail. 
He goes out down the steps. 

URSULA (watching him go): I am afraid; have mercy on 

him, Christ! 
CASSIEL: Draw thy sword, Michael; the hour is come. 

MICHAEL follows WILLIAM OUt, With hlS SWOrd 

drawn in his hand. 
f. Except the Lord build the house, their labour is but 

lost that build it. 
5- r . Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh 

but in vain. 
#. The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and rebukes 

are fallen upon me. 

!J?. For Thou art great and doest wondrous things; Thou 
art God alone. 

During the singing of these versides, the three re- 
maining ANGELS stand side by side at the top of the 
steps, with URSULA below them. Now they go up 
and stand on the plinth at the back of the stage, 
RAPHAEL and GABRIEL to right and left, with CAS- 
SIEL centre. 

CHOIR: The Lord is known to execute judgment; the un- 
godly is trapped in the work of his own hands. 
For he hath said in his heart, Tush, I shall never be cast 
down; there shall no harm happen unto me. 
The snares of death compassed me round about, and the 
pains of hell gat hold upon me. 

I shall find trouble and heaviness, and I will call upon 
the name of the Lord: O Lord, I beseech Thee, deliver 
my soul. 

The stage gradually fills with MONKS and WORKMEN; 
among them is a YOUNG BOY. 


AND WORKMEN: This is a brave day . . . the great 
arch finished . . . See, they are making ready to drop 
in the keystone ... It is wonderful how well Master 
William's machines work they have halved the labour 
of building . . . there's old Hubert he'll be a proud 
man to-day . . . Laus Deo! our new choir will be ready 
for us within the year . . . There it goes! No, they're 
waiting for something . . . They're waiting for the ar- 
chitect . . . There he is, slung half-way up in the trav- 
elling cradle . . , Can't you see? Come on, lad, up on 
my shoulder . . . There's the keystone slung aloft on 
the crane . . . Hurray! Master William's up now just 
getting to the top of the scaffolding . . . Get ready to 
cheer, boys. . . . 

THE YOUNG BOY (from his perch on the workman's shoul- 
der, shrilly) : Oh, look! look at the angel the terrible 

ALL: What's that? An angel? What? Where? Nonsense! 
THE YOUNG BOY: High on the scaffold, with the drawn 

sword in his hand! 
URSULA: Mother of God! 

She falls upon the steps. 

A shout from the stage is succeeded by a heavy 
crash without from the far end of the building. Men 
run in, right. 

ALL: He's fallen . . . Master William's down . . . He's 
killed ... fifty feet at least ... His foot slipped . . . 
No, the rope broke . . . What's happened? . . . God 
have mercy on us! ... Run for help! . . . Blessed 
Mary, pray for us! ... Send for the Prior . . . Fetch 
a chirurgeon . . . The devil is abroad . . . No, it was 
an angel . . . Where's that boy who saw the angel? 
. . . Here, the lady's fainted give us a hand here to 
carry her in ... Come along, let's see what's hap- 
pened . . . 

There is a general rush down the steps. 
URSULA (to the men who are supporting her) : Take me 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 313 

with you. (But she is unable to stand.} No leave me! 
Run and bring me word. 

They leave her crouched on the steps and run out. 
The three ANGELS come down and -follow the crowd 
out. Nobody is left but THEODATUS, SIMON and UR- 
SIMON: The rope! God forgive me I was talking and 

laughing. Father Theodatus, what have we done? 
THEODATUS: The rope! God is avenged. But I did not mean 
I did not think if it had not been for your lewd songs 

and his own behaviour with this woman 

URSULA: Could You not break me and not him, O God? 
SIMON: We have killed him among us, 
CHOIR: Out of the deep have I called unto Thee. O Lord, 
hear my voice. 

let Thine ears consider well the voice of my com- 

If Thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done 

amiss, O Lord, who may abide it? 

For there is mercy with Thee, therefore shalt thou be 


1 look for the Lord, my soul doth wait for Him, in His 
word is my trust. 

My soul fleeth unto the Lord; before the morning watch, 

I say, before the morning watch. 

O Israel, trust in the Lord, for with the Lord there is 

mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption; 

And He shall redeem Israel from all his sins. 

During the singing of the psalm, the PRIOR has re- 
entered -from the lower end, with HUBERT, GERVASE 
and the YOUNG BOY. They mount the steps. 
URSULA: Father! Father! In pity, tell me is he dead? 
PRIOR: No, my poor child. But sorely maimed. 
HUBERT: He will never be the same man again. 
URSULA: Let me go to him. 

PRIOR: Presently. The leech is with him now, seeing to his 
hurts. Trust me, you shall see him presently. (He goes 


on up steps and sits, right.) Now, Hubert, I must know 
how all this came to pass. 

HUBERT: My Lord Prior, there is no doubt at all. There was 
a flaw in the rope. Just as the cradle came up to the level 
of the scaffolding, bearing Master William, I saw with 
my eyes the strands spring asunder, I stretched out my 
hands to catch him, but I could not reach. If I could 
have done anything anything! I would gladly have 
given my life. 

GERVASE: So would I, Hubert. 

PRIOR: I am sure you would. 

HUBERT: Such a craftsman! such a craftsman! So kind a 
master! Just, zealous, generous no fault in him at all. 

GERVASE: So faithful a servant of the Church! Who will 
finish his work now? ... He was my friend, too. 

HUBERT: What I should like to know is who had the test- 
ing o* that there rope? 

SIMON (flinging himself at the PRIOR'S feet) : It was I it 
was my neglect. I have no excuse. I shall never forgive 

URSULA: It was my fault. 1 was talking to William dis- 
tracting the attention of them all. This is a judgment for 
our sin his and mine. 

THEODATUS: True; it was a judgment. Ask this boy here. 
Did he not see the angel thrust him down? 

PRIOR: Yes, child. What is this about an angel? 

THE YOUNG BOY: It is true. I saw a great angel stand be- 
tween heaven and earth all in gold and scarlet, with a 
drawn sword. Oh, and he had great wings, too. He cut 
the rope and the cradle fell. 

THEODATUS: There, you see! it was a divine judgment. 

HUBERT: Divine judgment! The boy's dreaming. It was 
rank carelessness. Simon who was at the other end of 
the rope when you tested it? (SIMON looks round at 
THEODATUS, waiting -for him to speak.) Speak up, man! 
Who was it? 

PRIOR: I was there, Theodatus. 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 315 

IHEODATUS: Well, it was I. But I had nothing to do with it. 
You heard what the child said. It was a miracle. 

PRIOR: I think we sometimes make disasters, and then call 
them miraculous Judgments. Did you at any moment 
take hand or eye from the rope while you were testing 

THEODATUS: I cannot remember. (Under the PRIOR'S eye, 
he abandons this line of defence.) She was there with 
William. For my soul's sake I could not look at them. I 
was saying my prayers . . . 

HUBERT: Sayin' your prayers! With the master's safety de- 
pending on you! 

THEODATUS : God himself laid the seal upon my eyes. I was 
His appointed instrument to overthrow the wicked man. 


Think what you say, my son. It is not for us 
To ordain ourselves the ministers of vengeance; 
For it must needs be that offences come, 
But woe unto that man by whom the offence 
Cometh; 'twere better he had not been born. 
This is thy sin: thou hast betrayed the work; 
Thou hast betrayed the Church; thou hast betrayed 
Christ, in the person of His fellow-man. 
What was the prayer wherein thou offer'dst up 
Thy brother s life? 


The Litany of the Virgin. 

Go to the church; repeat it once again, 
Saying at every line: "This was the spear 
With which I pierced the body of the Lord," 
Then come to me and ask for absolution. 

THEODATUS: I will obey. 

Exit THEODATUS, right. 



For you, my son and daughter, 
You see how sin brings its own suffering; 
Do not despair; God's mercy is very great, (He rises.) 
Thou that hast visions of angels, come with me. 
I am an old man. Let me have thy shoulder. 
So. Thou shalt tell me more about the angel. 
Exeunt PRIOR and YOUNG BOY, right. 

GERVASE (helping URSULA to her feet): 

Madam, pray do not weep so. He would be sorry to see 

I loved him, too. Let us go together to visit him. 

URSULA: And supposing he can never work again? What 
comfort in this world for him? And what forgiveness for 
any of us? 

Exeunt GERVASE and URSULA, right. 

HUBERT: Well, Simon, you've made a nice mess of it. There, 
there, lad, I can see you're sorry. Don't 'ee lose heart, 
now. It's a bad business, but we must make the best of 
SIMON: Oh, Hubert! 

Exeunt HUBERT and SIMON, right. 
During the singing of the following hymn, the AN- 
GELS return and take up their places as at the be- 
ginning of the play. 


Plebs angelica 
phalanx et archangelica 
principans turma, virtus 
ac potestas 

numina divinaque 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 317 

subsellia, Cherubim 
ac Seraphim 

Vos, O Michael 
caeli satrapa, 
Gabrielque vera 
dans verba nuntia, 

Atque Raphael, 
vitae vernula, 
transferte nos inter 

iv: Six months have passed since the preceding scene. Dur- 
ing the singing of the interlude, GERVASE, assisted by a 
LAY-BROTHER, is making up a couch in the centre of the 
stage. Enter, right, MARTIN, carrying a couple of large 

MARTIN: They told me you wanted some extra coverings 
for Master William's bed. 

GERVASE: Thank you, brother. Why, this is very kind! 
Surely these are the best fleeces. 

MARTIN: They are usually kept for distinguished visitors. 
But Father Wulfram specially asked that you should 
have them. They will make Master William warm and 
comfortable since he has taken this fancy for lying 

GERVASE: We are in hopes he may sleep better close to his 
work. He is so restless. Day and night he thinks of noth- 
ing but the building, and frets to lie helpless and so far 
away, From here he can see the sun shine on the arches 


he has raised; and when he lies wakeful in the early 
dawn it will comfort him to hear the clink of the mason's 
trowel and the carver's hammer heralding in the day. 
The LAY-BROTHER sets a stool near the head of the 
couch, down-stage, and goes out, right. 
MARTIN: Poor soul! Well, let us praise God for this warm 
and seasonable weather. Now that the summer is come, 
he will take no hurt from his change of lodging. 

The LAY-BROTHER returns with a jug of water, a 
horn drinking-vessel, and a candlestick, which he 
places on the stool. 

GERVASE: May it refresh him, soul and body! But I fear he 
undertakes more than his strength will bear. He has in- 
sisted to-day on being carried to view the progress of 
the roof over the Choir and Crosses. It is impossible to 
move him without causing severe pain and then he 
gives orders and excites himself. Indeed, it is too much 
for him. 
MARTIN (with some hesitation) : I suppose nothing would 

induce him to resign the appointment? 
GERVASE: Part him from his work? Oh, no! It would be 
more bitter to him than death. And where should we 
get another like him? 

Exit LAY-BROTHER, right . 

MARTIN: Well, I don't know. It is true he has done mag- 
nificent work. But frankly, dear brother, a sick man with 
a crippled spine cannot have his eyes here, there and 
everywhere, and during this half-year since his accident 
things have not gone quite so well. 

GERVASE: You know why that is. Some of the brethren do 
not work so loyally for Brother Hubert as they did for 

MARTIN: Isn't that natural? Hubert is an excellent crafts- 
man, but, after all, he is only an oblate, and a man of no 
education. Now if Master William had appointed, let us 
say, Father Hilary 

GERVASE: Father Hilary does fine carving very prettily, but 
he's quite out of his depth when it comes to the prac- 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 319 

tical side of building. Now, Brother Hubert understands 
his job inside out. 

MARTIN: Of course, but Well, there you are! You can't 

deny that there has been a certain amount of ill-feeling. 

GERVASE (bitterly): Jealousy, vanity, hatred, malice and 
all uncharitableness! And these are churchmen, vowed 
to holy obedience and humility. 

MARTIN: Beati pauperes spiritu. Beati mites. 

GERVASE: Amenl (He examines the couch critically and 
gives a punch to the pillows. Re-enter LAY-BROTHER, 
right, with a crucifix in his hand and a large bundle of 
papers under his arm.) Ah, thanks, Brother Robert. (He 
sets the crucifix on the stool with the other things.) Bet- 
ter put the papers on that other stool for the moment. 
(LAY-BROTHER puts them on stool, right.) There! I think 
that is the best we can do. 

Voices and footsteps of, right. 

MARTIN: I think they are bringing our patient in now. 

GERVASE: I hope he is not too much exhausted. 

Enter, right, WILLIAM, carried by THEODATUS and 


WILLIAM: Ugh! ugh! Gently, you fools, gently. Do you 
want to kill me? You've had one good shot at it. Jolt, 
jolt, like a couple of pack-asses. Clumsy idiots. 

They lay him on the couch, to a running accom-* 
paniment of groans and curses. 

THEODATUS: I am sorry. Did I hurt you? 

WILLIAM: Oh, no! Only jarred me to pieces, that's all. 

GERVASE (arranging pillows) : Is that a little easier? I'm 
afraid you have over-tired yourself. Are you in great 

WILLIAM: Oh, I daresay it'll be worse in Purgatory. 

MARTIN (pouring out water) : You have been out too long 
in the hot sun. 

WILLIAM (drinking): Thanks. Sorry, Simon. Don't mind 
me, Father Theodatus. It's only bad temper. The Prior 
set you a hard penance when he appointed you beast 
of burden to a sick man. 


THEODATUS: No, indeed. There is nothing I would more 
gladly do. I deserve far more than that for the evil I did 

WILLIAM:: Oh, stop blaming yourself. What's done can't be 
helped. Blame God, or the devil, or whoever looks after 
these things. Where's Hubert? I want him here. Go and 
fetch Brother Hubert, for God's sake, somebody. (Exe- 
unt SIMON and THEODATUS, right.) Why haven't my 
papers been brought down? 

GERVASE (bringing stool with papers and setting it by the 
couch tip-stage): They are all here. I will put them 
handy for you. 

MARTIN: Will you not rest a little first? 

WILLIAM: No, I will not Leave me alone, can't you? Ger- 
vase, find me the measurements for those corbels. 
'.They've got them all wrong, as I knew they would. 
/{Enter HUBERT, right.) Just because I'm not there to 

-.stand over them all the time Oh, Hubert, come and 

.look at this. What did I tell you? I knew it was not my 
ineasurements that were wrong. Can't you remember 
anything you're told? 

HUBERT: I am sure, sir, I gave Father Hilary the measure- 
ments exactly as you gave them to me. But he would 
have it as his own way was the right one, and he told 
the men under him 

WILLIAM: Father Hilary! Why should they pay any atten- 
tion to Father Hilary? If I had the use of my limbs I'd 
give them something to remind them who's in charge 
here. But I have to lie helpless as a log while you make 
a mess of it among you. Never mind. Not your fault. 
Gervase, give me pen and ink 111 show you how you 
can put it right. (GERVASE fetches pen and ink -from 
bench, left.) Lift me up, somebody. (MARTIN lifts him 
up.) Ugh! Now, see here . . , I've got an idea about 
this. . . . 

He begins to draw on the plan, but is overcome by 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 321 

HUBERT: Dear master, leave it until to-morrow. 

WILLIAM: It looks as though I shall have to. All right, 
Hubert. Don't worry. We'll put it straight in the morn- 
ing. (GERVASE and MARTIN take away the drawing mate- 
rials and settle him back on his pillows.) Oh, God! Shall 
I never be able to do anything again? 

Enter LAY-BROTHER, right., with a bowl of soup and, 
a trencher of bread. 

MARTIN (soothingly] : You work too hard, You have over- 
tired yourself. You will feel better when you have eaten. 
(GERVASE takes the bowl and hands it to WILLIAM, and 
the LAY-BROTHER goes out.) Come away now, Brother 
Hubert. He must be persuaded to rest. (He bustles 
HUBERT away, right, then turns at the door as ERNUL- 
PHUS and PAUL pop their heads round it.) Here are 
some visitors for you. 

Enter PAUL, carrying a bunch of roses and some- 
thing done up in a cabbage-leaf, and ERNULPHUS, 
obviously concealing some offering under his habit. 
Exeunt MARTIN and HUBERT. 

ERNULPHUS: May we come in? Pax tecum, my son, pax 

WILLIAM (in a dispirited growl) : Et cum spiritu tuo. 

ERNULPHUS: And how do you feel this evening? 

WILLIAM (with a wry face, but not unkindly): Horrible! 

ERNULPHUS: T t t t t! 

PAUL: It's this dreadful hot weather. Very trying. I don't 
know when I remember such a trying June. I'm sure we 
never had such unwholesome heat when I was a boy. I 
was nearly melted away, working in the garden. And 
the greenfly gets worse every year. There never was 
such a year for greenfly. Everything smothered. Still, 
I've managed to find a few roses (presenting them) y 
and see! A dozen or so of the early strawberries. I 
thought you might like them for your supper. 

WILLIAM (genuinely touched): That's very good of you, 
Father Paul. Are they the first? 

PAUL; The very first. Nobody else has had any not even 


the Father Prior. I hope you will find them sweet 
Though I must say, fruit doesn't seem to have the 
flavour it had in my young days. Still, such as they are, 
there they are. 

He puts them on the stool, down-stage. 

WILLIAM: I shall enjoy them immensely. I don't know any- 
thing more refreshing than early strawberries. 

ERNULPHUS: Oho! don't you? I do. (He produces a stout 
little -flask from under his habit.) Just you try this. A 
reviving cordial water from our own distillery. Not too 
fiery, and full of healthful properties. Made from herbs, 
according to our special recipe. 
Puts it on the stool. 

WILLIAM: Thank you; thank you very much. I will drink 
it to the healths of both of you. 

PAXJL: Oh, but it is your own health we must all wish and 
pray for. We do pray for you, of course. Night and 
morning. And remember you at Mass. Eh, Father Ernul- 

ERNULPHUS: Always. All of us. So you mustn't lose heart. 
Oh, dear, no. Now we had better run away, or we shall 
tire you out. Good night, my son. May God watch over 
and restore you! 

PAUL: Our Lady and all the blessed saints have you in 
their keeping. 

PAUL and ERNULPHUS trundel amiably of, right. 

WILLIAM: Good old souls! This is what I have come to, 
Gervase to be nursed and coddled, and comforted like 
a child with strawberries. Ah, well. You can tuck me 
up for the night and leave me to my own hobgoblins. 

GERVASE (taking the supper things away and helping him 
to lie down) : To the holy Angels, rather. There! is that 

WILLIAM: Yes, thank you, my boy. 

GERVASE (with a little assumption of authority): Do not 
forget your prayers. 

WILLIAM: Very well, Father. 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 323 

GERVASE: Benedicat te omnipotens Dens, Pater, et Filius 

et Spiritus Sanctus. Amen. 

GERVASE (going out, right) : Sleep in peace. Hubert and I 
will be at hand if you should need anything. 
Exit, left. 

WILLIAM pulls out a rosary, mechanically counts the 
first decade, then tosses it away impatiently. 


O lux beata trinitas, 
Et principalis unitas, 
Jam sol recedit igneus; 
Infunde lumen cordibus. 

RAPHAEL: Michael. 

GABRIEL: Michael. 

CASSIEL: Michael, thou watchman of the Lord! What of 

the night? Watchman, what of the night? 
MICHAEL: The morning cometh, and also the night; if ye 

will enquire, enquire ye: return, come. 


Te mane laudum carmine, 
Te deprecamur vesperi, 
Te nostra supplex gloria 
Per cuncta laudet saecula. 

Enter THEODATUS, right. 

THEODATUS: Master William, there is one without would 
speak with you. 


THEODATUS: The Lady Ursula. 

WILLIAM: What is the use of this? I will not see her. It 
is always the same story. She asks to be my wife, my 
nurse, my servant Heaven knows what; to devote her 
life, make reparation and all the rest of it. She shall not 


do it. I will not have people sacrificing themselves for 
me. It is monstrous. It is impossible. Tell her so. 

THEODATUS: She says she is here for the last time. She is 
very unhappy. I think you ought I beseech you to let 
her come. 

WILLIAM: That is a new tune for you to sing, Father 

THEODATUS: I have learnt a little charity of late. Let me 
beg of you. 

WILLIAM: Oh, very well. 

THEODATUS beckons in URSULA and goes out, right. 

URSULA: William, I have come to say good-bye. I will not 
trouble you any more. Since I am nothing to you now, 
and the world without you is nothing to me, I can but 
take refuge at the Throne of Grace and pray for both 
of us. 

WILLIAM: That is folly, my dear. You, in a convent of nuns! 
Go and be happy, and forget me. 

URSULA: That is the one thing I cannot do. No other man 
shall have me, if not you. 

WILLIAM: I am not a man, Ursula. I am a cripple with a 
broken back a stock, a stone I am nothing. A mar- 
riage-bond with me would be a bond indeed. Let the 
dead past bury its dead. Our dream is over. 

URSULA: "Sitting by the fire, seeing pictures in the fire, 
visions and dreams" do you remember? 

WILLIAM: I have no dreams now only nightmares. No- 
body can bring back my dreams. Some of them even 
grudge me my work here all that is left to me. 

URSULA: I have broken what I cannot mend. William, tell 
me had I at any time, even for a moment, any part in 
your dream? 

WILLIAM: I hardly know. But once, high in a corner of 
the clerestory, where none but God will look for it, I 
carved an angel with your face. 

URSULA: Ah, my dear! . . . And you will still have me go? 

WILLIAM: Yes; go. I am sorry. Go. 
URSULA goes without protest. 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 325 

Father Theodatus! (THEODATUS looks in) Pray conduct 
the Lady Ursula to the convent gate and ask die Father 
Prior if he can come and see me. 
THEODATUS: I will, my son. 

Exit THEODATUS With URSULA, fight. 

CHOIR: My days are consumed away like smoke, and my 
bones are burnt up as it were a fire-brand. 
My heart is smitten down and withered like grass, so 
that I forget to eat my bread. 

For the voice of my groaning, my bones will scarce 
cleave to my flesh. 

And that because of Thine indignation and wrath; for 
Thou hast taken me up and cast me down. 

Enter PRIOR, right. 
PRIOR: You sent for me, my son? 
WILLIAM: Yes. I scarcely know why, save that I am in hell 

and can see no way out. 

PRIOR: Is there some sin troubling your conscience? 
WILLIAM: All the sins there are or most of them, any 

way. Not that they ever troubled me till I was punished 

for them. But now they rise up round me in the night 

and stifle me. 
PRIOR: My son, will you not confess them and receive 

WILLIAM: Confess? if I were to confess them all, you would 

be here till to-morrow. I cannot remember when I last 

made a confession. 
PRIOR (removing the papers from the stool up-stage and 

sitting down) : In general, then, my son, and as well as 

you can remember them, tell me your sins. 


I do confess to God 

The Father and the Son and Holy Ghost, 
To Mary Mother of God the ever-virgin, 
To the most holy Apostles Peter and Paul, 


To blessed Michael and all his angels 

And the whole company of Heaven, and thee, 

Father, that I have sinned exceedingly, 

In thought, in word, in action, by my fault, 

By my own fault, my own most grievous fault. 

I have lusted as men lust; I have eaten and drunk 

With the drunken; I have given way to wrath, 

Taking God's name in vain, cursing and smiting; 

I have been too much eager after gold 

And the brave things of the world, that take the eye 

And charm the flesh. Now, smitten in my flesh 

My sins have left me, and I see perforce 

How worthless they all were. I am sorry for them. 

Though yet I think I was not the worse craftsman 

Because in me the lusty flesh rejoiced, 

Lending its joy to all I did* Some men, 

Fettering the body, fetter the soul, too, 

So that the iron eats inward; thereof come 

Cruelties, deceits, perversities of malice, 

Strange twistings of the mind, defeats of spirit, 

Whereof I cannot with sincerity 

Accuse myself. But if it be a sin 

To make the flesh the pander to the mind, 

I have sinned deep. Of the means, not of the end, 

I heartily repent. 


Son, they mistake 

Who think God hates those bodies which He made. 
Freedom, not licence, must be given the body, 
For licence preys upon itself and others, 
Devouring freedom's gifts. Have others suffered 
Through lust, wrath, greed of yours? 


I do confess it, 

And ask their pardon and God's pardon for it 
Most humbly. 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 327 


In this world as in God's heaven 
There is no power to match humility: 
It breaks the horns of the unicorns, and makes 
The wand of justice flower like Aaron's rod. 
Stoop to repent, and God will stoop to pardon. 

I do repent. 


Indeed I hope thou dost. 
For all these injuries, see thou make amends 
So far as may be done; the irreparable 
God's grace shall turn to good, since only He 
Can lead out triumph from the gates of hell, 
As He hath done by thee, using thy faults 
To further His great ends, by His sole power, 
Not Thine. 


I understand. A year ago 
An idle mason let the chisel slip 
Spoiling the saint he carved. I chid him for it, 
Then took the tool and in that careless stroke 
Saw a new vision, and so wrought it out 
Into a hippogriff. But yet the mason 
Was not the less to blame. So works with us 
The cunning craftsman, God. 


Thou hast a mind 

Apt to receive His meaning. But take heed: 
The mind hath its own snares. What sins of the mind 
Trouble thee now? 


I do not know of any. 



I cannot read the heart; but I am old 

And know how little one need fear the flesh 

In comparison of the mind. Think, I beseech thee, 

If any sin lie yet upon thy conscience. 


Father, I know of none. 


The Tree of Life 

Grew by the Tree of Knowledge; and when Adam 
Ate of the one, this doom was laid upon him 
Never, but by self-knowledge, to taste life. 
Pray now for grace, that thou may'st know and live. 


Wilt thou not give me present absolution? 


Of all thy fleshly faults, humbly confessed, 
Truly repented, I do absolve thee now 
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of 
The Holy Ghost. Amen. 




Good night; 
Peace be with thee. 


And with thy spirit. Good night. 
Exit PRIOR. WILLIAM tosses restlessly. 
$. The ministers of God are sons of thunder, they are falls 
of water, trampling of horses, and running of chariots; 
and if the voices of these ministers cannot overcome 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 329 

thy music, thy security, yet the Angels' trumpets will. 
Distant trumpet. 


Quantus tremor est futurus 
Quando judex est venturus 
Cuncta stricte discussurus. 

GABRIEL goes up and stands behind WILLIAM. 
Tuba mirum spargens sonum 
Per sepulchra regionum 
Coget omnes ante thronum. 

MICHAEL goes up and stands with drawn sword 

before WILLIAM. 
Liber scriptus proferetur 
Inquo totum continetur 
Unde mundus judicetur 

CASSDEL goes up and stands at the -foot of WILLIAM'S 

bed, with the Book open before him. 
Quid sum miser tune dictums, 
Quern patronem rogaturus, 
Cum vix Justus sit securus? 

RAPHAEL goes up and stands with his censer at the 

head of WILLIAM'S bed. 


Sleep! while these voices wail through aisle and cloister 

Howling on judgment? Cannot Father Ambrose 

Keep his monks quiet let a sick man rest? 

I am confessed, absolved. Why think of judgment? 

My soul is heavy even unto death, 

And something not myself moves in the dusk 

Fearfully. Lights! lights! lights! 

GABRIEL (laying his hand on WILLIAM'S eyes) : 

Let there be light! 
WILLIAM becomes aware of the presence of the 


$. Behold, the angel of the Lord, standing in the way, 
and his sword drawn in his hand. 


]?r. And he was afraid, because of the sword of the angel 

of the Lord. 
f. My flesh trembleth for fear of Thee, and I am afraid 

of Thy judgments. 
"ty. God is a righteous judge, strong and patient, and God 

is provoked every day. 


So it is come; first death and then the Judgment. 
Thou standest there and boldest up the Book 
Wherein my sins show black. But I am shriven. 
Christ's blood hath washed me white. What then art 


Threats in thy hand, and in thy face a threat 
Sterner than steel and colder? 


I am Michael, 

The sword of God. The edge is turned toward thee: 
Not for those sins whereof thou dost repent, 
Lust, greed, wrath, avarice, the faults of flesh 
Sloughed off with the flesh, but that which feeds the 


The sin that is so much a part of thee 
Thou know'st it not for sin. 


What sin is that? 

Angel, what sins remain? I have envied no man, 
Sought to rob no man of renown or merits, 
Yea, praised all better workmen than myself 
From an ungrudging heart. I have not been slothful 
Thou canst not say I was. Lust, greed, wrath, avarice, 
None ever came between my work and me; 
That I put first; never by nights of lust 
Too spent to labour in the dawning day; 
Never so drunken that I could not set 
Level to stone or hold the plumb-line true; 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 331 

Never so wroth as to confound my judgment 

Between the man and the work, or call the one 

Ill-done because I wished the other ill; 

Never so grasping as to take reward 

For what I did not, or despised to do. 

If I neglected lip-service to God, 

My hands served for me, and I wrought His praise 

Not in light words puffed from a slumberous mind 

Like wind, but in enduring monuments, 

Symbol and fruit of that which works, not sleeps. 

Answer me, Angel, what have I ever done 

Or left undone, that I may not repent 

Nor God forgive? 


There where thy treasure is 
Thy heart is also. Sin is of the heart. 


But all my heart was in my work. 


Even so. 


What, in my work? The sin was in my work? 
Thou liest. Though thou speak with God's own voice 
Thou liest. In my work? That cannot be. 
I grant the work not perfect; no man's work 
Is perfect; but what hand and brain could do, 
Such as God made them, that I did. Doth God 
Demand the impossible? Then blame God, not me, 
That I am man, not God. He hath broken me, 

Hath sought to snatch the work out of my hand 

Wherefore? . . . O now, now I begin to see. 
This was well said, He is a jealous God; 
The work was not ill done 'twas done too well; 
He will not have men creep so near His throne 


To steal applause from Him. Is this my fault? 

Why, this needs no repentance, and shall have none. 

Let Him destroy me, since He has the power 

To slay the thing He envies but while I have breath 

My work is mine; He shall not take it from me. 


No; thou shalt lay it down of thine own will. 


Never. Let Him heap on more torments yet 


He can heap none on thee, He hath not borne 


Let Him strike helpless hands as well as feet 


Whose Feet and Hands were helpless stricken 


Scourge me and smite me and make blind mine eyes 


As He was blindfolded and scourged and smitten 


Dry up my voice in my throat and make me dumb 


As He was dumb and opened not His mouth 


Cramp me with pains 


As He was cramped with pains, 
Racked limb from limb upon the stubborn Cross 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 333 


Parch me with fever 


He that cried, "I thirst" 


Wring out my blood and sweat 


Whose sweat, like blood, 
Watered the garden in Gethsemane 


For all that He can do I will not yield, 
Nor leave to other men that which is mine, 
To botch to alter turn to something else, 
Not mine. 


Thou wilt not? Yet God bore this too, 
The last, the bitterest, worst humiliation, 
Bowing His neck under the galling yoke 
Frustrate, defeated, half His life unlived, 
Nothing achieved. 


Could God, being God, do this? 


Christ, being man, did this; but still, through faith 
Knew what He did. As gold and diamond, 
Weighed in the chemist's balance, are but earth 
Like tin or iron, albeit within them still 
The purchase of the world lie implicit: 
So, when God came to test of mortal time 
In nature of a man whom time supplants, 
He made no reservation of Himself 


Nor of the godlike stamp that franked His gold, 

But in good time let time supplant Him too. 

The earth was rent, the sun's face turned to blood, 

But He, unshaken, with exultant voice 

Cried, "It is finished!" and gave up the ghost. 

"Finished" when men had thought it scarce begun. 

Then His disciples with blind faces mourned, 

Weeping: "We trusted that He should redeem 

Israel; but now we know not." What said He 

Behind the shut doors in Jerusalem, 

At Emmaus, and in the bitter dawn 

By Galilee? "I go; but feed My sheep; 

For Me the Sabbath at the long week's close 

For you the task, for you the tongues of fire." 

Thus shalt thou know the Master Architect, 

Who plans so well, He may depart and leave 

The work to others. Art thou moie than God? 

Not God Himself was indispensable, 

For lo! God died and still His work goes on. 

$*. Thou that destroyest the temple and buildest it in three 
days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come 
down from the cross. 

!}r. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My Father, 
and He shall presently give Me more than twelve 
legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be 
fulfilled, that thus it must be? 


Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief. 


Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief. 


Faithful Cross, above all other 

One and only noble Tree, 
None in foliage, none in blossom, 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 335 

None in fruit thy peer may be; 
Sweetest wood and sweetest iron, 
Sweetest weight is hung on thee. 


O, I have sinned. The eldest sin of all, 

Pride, that struck down the morning star from Heaven 

Hath struck down me from where I sat and shone 

Smiling on my new world. All other sins 

God will forgive hut that. I am damned, damned, 

Justly. Yet, O most just and merciful God, 

Hear me but once, Thou that didst make the world 

And wilt not let one thing that Thou hast made, 

No, not one sparrow, perish without Thy Will 

(Since what we make, we love) for that love's sake 

Smite only me and spare my handiwork. 

Jesu, the carpenter's Son, the Master-Builder, 

Architect, poet, maker by those hands 

That Thine own nails have wounded by the wood 

Whence Thou didst carve Thy Cross let not the Church 

Be lost through me. Let me lie deep in hell, 

Death gnaw upon me, purge my bones with fire, 

But let my work, all that was good in me, 

All that was God, stand up and live and grow. 

The work is sound, Lord God, no rottenness there 

Only in me. Wipe out my name from men 

But not my work; to other men the glory 

And to Thy Name alone. But if to the damned 

Be any mercy at all, O send Thy spirit 

To blow apart the sundering flames, that I 

After a thousand years of hell, may catch 

One glimpse, one only, of the Church of Christ, 

The perfect work, finished, though not by me. 

f. Save me from the lion's mouth; Thou hast heard me 
also from among the horns of the unicorns. 

f$. For why? Thou shalt not leave my soul in hell, neither 
shalt Thou suffer Thine holy one to see corruption. 



Sheathe thy sword, Michael; the fight is won. 


Close the book, Cassiel; the score is paid. 


Give glory, Raphael; the race is run. 


Lead homeward, Gabriel, the sheep that strayed. 


Eloi, Eloi, Eloi, 

Glory to God in the highest; holy is He! 


How hardly shall the rich man enter in 

To the Kingdom of Heaven! By what sharp, thorny ways, 

By what strait gate at last! But when he is come, 

The angelic trumpets split their golden throats 

Triumphant, to the stars singing together 

And all the sons of God shouting for joy. 

Be comforted, thou that wast rich in gifts; 

For thou are broken on the self-same rack 

That broke the richest Prince of all the world, 

The Master-man. Thou shalt not surely die, 

Save as He died; nor suffer, save with Him; 

Nor lie in hell, for He hath conquered hell 

And flung the gates wide open. They that bear 

The cross with Him, with Him shall wear a crown 

Such as the angels know not. Then be still, 

And know that He is God, and God alone. 

^. Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell, 

rose again the third day from the dead. 
~ty. He ascended into Heaven, He sitteth on the right hand 

of the Father, God Almighty; from whence He shall 

come to judge the quick and the dead* 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 337 


Eloi, Eloi, Eloi, 

Glory to God in the highest; holy is He! 

While this is sung, the ANGELS go up and stand side 
by side across the stage behind the couch. 


I shall not die but live, and declare the works of the 

Lord. Who is there? I was dreaming. Gervase! Hubert! 

GERVASE and HUBERT run in, left and right. 



Dear master? 


God hath changed my mind. 
I must submit. I must go back to France. 
I do but hinder the work, lingering here, 
Kicking against the pricks. 


Do not say so! 


What should we do without you? 


I am not 

The only architect in the world there are others 
Will do the work as well, better perhaps. 
Stay not to chide me listen, there is one, 
William the Englishman, a little man, 
But with a mounting spirit and great vision; 
Send now for him. I think we quarrelled once, 
Not seeing eye to eye but that is nothing; 


He will respect my work as I do his, 

And build a harmony of his and mine 

To a nobler close than mine* I'll not dictate 

Conditions to the Chapter; but, should they choose 

William the Englishman to follow me, 

He'll do such work for them as honours God 

And them and all good craftsmen. As for me, 

My place is here no more. I am in God's hand. 

Take me and bear me hence. 


Dear master, whither? 


To the Lady Ursula's lodging. If unto her 

I can make any amends, then I will make it. 

To all of you, I owe a debt of love 

Which I will pay with love. Only to God, 

That royal creditor, no debt remains. 

He from the treasure of His great heart hath paid 

The whole sum due, and cancelled out the bond. 

Laus Deo! 

GERVASE and HUBERT carry WILLIAM out, right. 


O quanta qualia sunt ilia sabbata, 
Quae semper celebrat superna curia, 
Quae fessis requies, quae merces fortibus, 
Cum erit omnia Deus in omnibus. 

Vere Jerusalem illic est civitas, 
Cujus pax jugis est summa jucunditas, 
Ubi non praevenit rem desiderium, 
Nee desiderio minus est praemium. 

Illic ex sabbato succedit sabbatum, 
Perpes laetitia sabbatizantium, 

SAYERS: The Zeal of Thy House 339 

Nee ineffabiles cessabunt jubili, 
Quos decantabimus et nos et angeli. 

MICHAEL comes down to the foot of the steps and 
addresses the congregation; the other three ANGELS 
standing above him. 

MICHAEL: Children of men, lift up your hearts. Laud and 
magnify God, the everlasting Wisdom, the holy, un- 
divided and adorable Trinity. 

Praise Him that He hath made man in His own image, 
a maker and craftsman like Himself, a little mirror of 
His triune majesty. 

For every work of creation is threefold, an earthly trinity 
to match the heavenly. 

First: there is the Creative Idea; passionless, timeless, 
beholding the whole work complete at once, the end in 
the beginning; and this is the image of the Father. 
Second: there is the Creative Energy, begotten of that 
Idea, working in time from the beginning to the end, 
with sweat and passion, being incarnate in the bonds of 
matter; and this is the image of the Word. 
Third: there is the Creative Power, the meaning of the 
work and its response in the lively soul; and this is the 
image of the indwelling Spirit. 

And these three are one, each equally in itself the whole 
work, whereof none can exist without other; and this is 
the image of the Trinity. 

Look then upon this Cathedral Church of Christ: 
imagined by men's minds, built by the labour of men's 
hands, working with power upon the souls of men; 
symbol of the everlasting Trinity, the visible temple of 

As you would honour Christ, so honour His Church; 
nor suffer this temple of His Body to know decay. 


A Play 

**, . . liberavi animam meam: I have not 
hid within my breast my soul's belief." 
ROGER WILLIAMS in his The Bloody Tenet 
of Persecution for Cause of Conscience 

Copyright 1957 by James Schevill. 

To Marvin Halverson and the 
National Council of Churches, 
and to Lawrence Durgin and the 
members of the Central Congregational 
Church in Providence, Rhode Island, 
where this play was -first performed. 



EVANGELIST, Mrs. Simpsen, a prominent American 


JOURNALIST, Edward Miller, a writer of books and 

articles on the history of religion. 


GOVERNOR HAYNES, Governor of Massachusetts Bay and 
Presiding Officer of the General Court. 

THOMAS DUDLEY, Governor of the Bay before and after 
Haynes. At the time of Williams's trial, a leading 

JOHN WINTHROP, Ex-Governor of the Colony. Reduced to 
magistrate at the time of Williams' s trial because of 
his "leniency to disaffected souls. 9 ' 

JOHN COTTON, Renowned theologian among the Puritans 
in England and the Calvinists on the continent. Who 
assured the world that the congregational system 
needed a vigorous magistracy. An implacable joe of 
Williams., Cotton dreamt of a theocracy modeled on 
the Biblical image of Israel. 

THOMAS HOOKER, With Cotton a renowned minister, but a 
minister with a special reputation as a great preacher. 

ROGER WILLIAMS, The defendant at the trial held in Hook- 
er's Church, Newtown, October 8, 1635. 


CANONICUS, The Chief of the Narragansett Indians. 

SIR EDWARD COKE, Chief Justice of the Star Chamber under 
Queen Elizabeth. The great English lawyer and men- 
tor of Williams. 

Note: Since Canonicus does not speak, this part can be 

doubled. The cast for performance, then, consists of eight 

men and two women. 


SCENE i: The church is dark. The light comes up to reveal 
the JOURNALIST waiting for the EVANGELIST. A banner, 
the wall. The JOURNALIST is a middle-aged intellectual, 
shrewd, aggressive and cynical. Nervously, he looks around 
the Temple before he speaks. 


She's late ... Ill bet she keeps everyone waiting . . . 

All these statues . . . (He gestures with disgust 

around the Temple) I thought Protestants had gotten 

rid of idols. 

But she seems to have added a few of her own . . . 

(He looks at the banner) 

The Gospel of Radiant Redemption . . . There's a 
Simple-minded American evangelist for you. 
The latest tricks of Public Relations . . . (Then bit- 

I used to think of myself as a religious historian. 
Now I'm just a reporter who runs after evangelists 
For interviews ... Sh ... here she comes . . . 
He is startled as the EVANGELIST makes an impres- 
sive entrance. She is dressed in a dazzling, long 
white gown, with a red sash across the front. There 
is no doubt of the magnetism of her personality. 

EVANGELIST (extending her hand regally): 
Mr. Miller? I'm sorry to keep you waiting. 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 345 


Thank you for seeing me, Mrs. Simpsen. (Then ironi- 

Don't worry about keeping me waiting. 
A journalist only kills time. 


Is this your first visit to 

My Temple of Radiant Redemption? 


Yes, I'm afraid it is ... 


Then stop a moment and listen . . . (She stops him 


Listen to the spirit of our ancestors 
Who sing the Gospel of Radiant Redemption. 

JOURNALIST (puzzled): 

The ancestors of your Gospel? 

EVANGELIST (sweeping her arm around the church): 
There they are, in the air of eternity. 
Sweet in the sunlight of His grace, 
The heroes who have bled for Jesus. 
Do you hear that voice in the corner? 


I don't hear anything. 


That is the soul of Saint Peter, crucified downwards, 
Who knew the secret irony of a crucifixion 
Forces the traitors still to look up at you. 
(She is about to lead him to another corner ; but he stops 



But Saint Peter was a Catholic martyr . . . 

EVANGELIST (brushing this off firmly) : 

Religious heroes, Mr. Miller, belong to Jesus 
And not to any one religious order. (She points to an- 
other corner) 

In this blessed corner of my Temple 
Prays the martyr, John Huss, as the cruel flames 
Burnt the flesh of earth from his body. 
Jesus has always demanded sacrifice 
To escape the hot temptation of Hell. 


Perhaps there is a danger of conformity in religion 
And heretics are created as scapegoats, but 
The saints and martyrs of God need no earthly recog- 
Why do you make them into a personal gallery of heroes? 


We forget their sacrifices too easily. 
Religion has need of heroes today. 


You don't understand what I mean. 
By praising martyrs and heretics 
As heroes of religious revolt, 
Aren't you destroying the unity 
Of organized churches and setting up 
New symbols of separation . . . ? 


There's nothing wrong with symbols. 
I don't think God is a realistic geographer 
Of Heaven and HeU, Mr. Miller. 
Each soul is a fire escape and a fire trap 
At the same time, you must know that. 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 347 

JOURNALIST (pointedly}: 

The danger of religious rebels is that 

They interpret scripture for their own ends. 

That's why the early Christian fathers 

Moved back from the cloudy symbols of the word 

To the traditions of the acts of Jesus. 


Religion has no meaning 

Unless the symbol and the act are one. 

Don't try to deceive me, Mr. Miller. 

The danger of the scholar is that 

He wastes all his time poring over words 

And finally divides the act and the symbol 

Into two false worlds. 

JOURNALIST (nettled): 

Perhaps you're right. That may be the scholar's danger, 
But what is the danger of the evangelist 
Who creates a world of romantic isolation 
Split apart from all other Christian churches? 


I don't split myself away from other churches. 
Wherever I preach throughout the country, 
I try to cooperate with all churches 
On die March for Christ through an extensive follow-up 


Isn't there a risk of turning religion into Public Relations 
With your March for Christ and your follow-up systems? 

EVANGELIST (scornfully) : 

Religion is not a guest home for Sunday visits 
As you conformist intellectuals would make it. 
YouVe lost your spirit working for a magazine 
That treats religion like a mummy in a museum. 


Come to the services in my Temple, Mr. Miller, 
And throw away your crutches of cynicism! 

JOURNALIST (stiffly): 

I think religion is a private matter between man and 

Preaching to crowds in a Temple or on a street corner 


Hypnotize them, but it doesn't bring them closer to God. 
This idea of mass religion is why 
We've never had a real American heretic. 


A street corner for the soul is as good as a study 
If the brain will descend to the smell of the street. 
And you're wrong about an American martyr. There 

has been one. 

YouVe even written about him. This is his heroic corner 
In my Temple of Radiant Redemption. (She points) 


Who do you mean? 

EVANGELIST (fervently) : 

Roger Williams, the founder of religious freedom, 
The gentle soul who separated the church 
Once and for all from the tyranny of state control. 

JOURNALIST (protesting): 

That's what I mean about your gallery of heroes. 

You're not talking about the real Williams, 

But a fantasy of your own creation. 

Williams was hardly a gentle soul 

And he certainly wasn't a martyr. 

His opponents, Governor Haynes, Thomas Dudley, 

John Winthrop, and the great ministers, 

Thomas Hooker and John Cotton 

They were deeply religious men. 

SCHEVELL: The Bloody Tenet 349 


Many false religious fires 
Shine from the walls of Hell. 


I'm surprised to hear you say that. 

The Puritans weren't insincere about Williams. 

They thought he was a kind of stubborn crank. 


Sometimes God loves the stubborn shepherd 
More than the meek sheep, Mr. Miller. 


What do you really know about Williams? 
Do you remember his interpretation of the parable in 
Matthew 13? 


You mean the parable when God commands men to let 

The weeds to grow up with the wheat until the harvest 


Yes. Williams said the church lives wildly 

In the wilderness of the world, and 

Cannot ever find absolute truth. The weeds 

In the parable, to Williams, were false Christians . . . 

EVANGELIST (emphatically): 

Mr. Miller, there are false everything today. 

JOURNALIST (pointedly): 

Williams called these false Christians 
Strange professors of the name of Jesus, 
Sowers of ignorance and error in the night . . . 


EVANGELIST (indignantly) i 

You imply that he would call me a strange professor of 

JOURNALIST (shrugging): 

Tm only a journalist. I'm asking you 
If your Temple of Radiant Redemption 
Is another one of the isolated groups 
That grow wildly in our country today? 

EVANGELIST (calmly and with great confidence) : 
Religion, I think, is not a bed of roses. 
Your Williams chained in the false light of history 
Is not as real as my view of his message of spiritual 

You have no right to judge the heroes inside the Lord's 



I don't judge anything. This is your Temple. 


The Lord knows I prefer the quiet of a chapel, 

But the radiation of His eternal will 

Drives my spirit to help men towards His grace. 


Is that why you play the role of Christ 
When you stage the crucifixion every year? 
Isn't that a heresy of pride 
That cuts away the grace of God? 


No one can proclaim himself a heretic. 
Only the Lord has that sacred power: 
If there was no one to challenge conformity 
The prosecutors of heresy would survive 
In their cold masks of security. 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 351 


Without prosecution, there would be no society of law. 


No prosecutor can represent the love of God. 
How can you know the torment of a Roger Williams 
When he stands alone against a power of men? 


I don't know and I admit it, but I know 

What Williams has come to mean in history. 

You aren't the only one to distort his life. 

In Geneva his statue stands as one of the leaders 

Of the Protestant Revolution, the hero 

Who separated the church from the state. 

His knotty mind has been simplified to this one point, 

And from that point flower all of the weird sects 

The strange professors of Jesus 

Who grow wildly in our country today. 


The strange professor of Jesus may be a danger 

But God did not create every man to be ordinary. 

It would cost the loss of many souls 

If I turned from the Lord's power of radiant redemption. 

I have often thought about the trial of Roger Williams 

And I am sure there was only one central issue, 

The true love of God . . . 

JOURNALIST (protesting) : 

But the trial of Williams was a complicated one. There 
were many issues involved . . . 

EVANGELIST (ignoring this) : 

God has willed us to remember only the simple issue 
Of freedom to love God in our own way. 


JOURNALIST (angrily): 

How could Williams, with Ids complicated mind, 
Ever think of simplifying God? 

EVANGELIST (triumphantly) i 

Didn't he teach the savage Indians? 

In the same way Christ taught an almost illiterate people 

and today we must call back that simplicity 
And teach the power of God's love and fire! 

(She is close to him, scorning him with the -fire of 
her voice as the scene blacks out and the choir is 
heard singing: 
"The land is fair, the air is soft, etc.") 

SCENE n: Hooker's Church. Newtown, now Cambridge, 
Massachusetts. 1635. 

HAYNES) : It is a humble church, Governor Haynes. We 
.have no comforts here. 


But a strong fortress for God's spirit, Mr. Hooker. 
Every man in Massachusetts Bay honors your preaching 
And I am told your voice haunts all the pulpits in the 


If I am honored with a voice, Sir, 

It is to speak God's word in this new state. 

Why did you ask us here? 


It is the case of Roger Williams of which an end must be 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 353 


I cannot judge this case 
For I have been his friend 
Despite his nature of dissent. 


You were honored, Mr. Winthrop, 
As first governor of all this Bay . . . 


But then reduced to magistrate 

For leniency to disaffected souls . . . 


Please, Mr. Dudley, (then, to WINTHROP) 
This a case, Sir, in which we must request your aid 
For we know your love of God and value all your judg- 


Mr. Williams is a man well-liked 
Though his views seem wild and crankish. 


Especially well-liked in old England. 


That is where our problem rests. 

Mr. Williams demands the right of complete separation 

For any church within this colony. 

He demands this rigorous separation 

Not only from the English church, which we might 


But also from our theocratic Bay authority. 
He has many influential English friends 
Who listen when he writes against our magistrates. 


Has he taken action to support these views? 


In order to foster this separation 
He has sent letters to all our churches in the Bay 
Accusing our magistrates of tyrannical interference 
With the free powers of his Salem congregation. 


This is a rage of rebellion, Sir. You cannot deny that. 


It is a wrong, but more I think 

A case of temper than ill will and plotting. 


Plotting or temper makes no difference 

To the welfare of the state. Both must be punished. 

We cannot let this rebel split apart 

Our unity of magistrates and ministers. 


What is it you mean to do, Mr. Dudley? 


Mr. Williams must be tried before the General Court. 


I ask to be excused. 


You must assist us else the colony is split. 
The danger we face is absolute and clear. 
We are only a small settlement 
Surrounded by savage and heathen enemies. 
If we lose our central authority 
Our state cannot long survive. 


Would you have our land dissolve 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 355 

And all your reputation gone 
Because a man of overweening pride 
Thrusts down our Bay his knife of separation? 


He never seemed to my friendship 

A man possessed by devil's pride. (Turning to HOOKER 

and COTTON -for support) 
Has he been argued with by our honored ministers? 


I asked Mr. Cotton to contest with him 

Because I thought no one could deny 

The sacred scholarship of our leading theologian. 


Mr. Cotton has just returned from long and bitter days 
In Salem and will tell you of his futile argument. 


Sirs, I do not seek your praise of scholarship. 

This is an unpleasant task where the word of the Lord 

Is conflicted with in practice. 

When I visited Mr. Williams I found him sick in bed 

Where he did read with feverish haste 

To find support within the Bible. 


He cannot find a heresy in every town 
Within the sacred fury of the Bible. 


Is it a serious illness? 


Mainly a sickness of the mind I think 

That failed to keep his words from running riot. 


You do not judge him by his independent tongue? 


I have no doubt of his sincerity, 
But he has a head that runs around 
And begs all constant reason 
With its shifting roundabout. 
He is a lion for separation, so strong for it, 
There seems nothing left but God from which to sepa- 

And when I did strap him down on separation 
He wriggled out on oaths of loyalty, 
And when I questioned him on loyalty 
He shifted to attack the magistrates 
For threatening his Salem church. 


It is a grave accusation that threatens all our government. 


Let us not forget we are fled from an England 

Where the laws of men warped the peaceful ways of God 

Into a force that shattered peace. 

We must beware of civil law. 


That was his question of me, asking, in Christ's words, 
Should we not render unto Caesar the things that are 


And unto God the things that are God's? 
But in our New England we have no forcing hand of 

We have no civil government but stems from God's holy 

I asked Mr. Williams, would he have a Caesar here in 

the Lord's state? 
And he answered, there is only one Lord's state, 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 357 

The Bible's Israel, and it was doomed by God. 
He is a man who reads his Bible like a dreamer 
And cannot see the factual hand of the Lord. 


We must take care in judging dreamers. 
A state that sharpens laws to pointed spears 
Tears all dissent and dream on cruel steel 
And sinks into oblivion like a stain of blood. 
Was it not Joseph's brethren who said scornfully, 
"Behold, this dreamer cometh"? 


Sir, I think no one takes this trial lightly. 
If Mr. Williams is a dreamer, it is the act of his dream 
We will judge and not the fantasy of his vision. ( To COT- 
What did he say to his letters attacking our magistrates? 


He justified them as the freedom of his conscience. 
Conscience moves in his every word like a devious worm 
In underground soil until no man knows its way or goal. 


Is it not true then, Mr. Cotton, 

If we fail to uphold the freedom of conscience 

We make a mockery of our new state? 


It is a sacred duty, Mr. Winthrop, 

Yet what is conscience but the soul of every man? 

And while we must not punish the freedom of this soul 

before God, 

We must punish any soul if it sins against itself, 
For the Lord commanded Moses, "Thou shalt have no 

other God before me." 
How then can a soul find salvation if it be permitted 


To worship false idols under the disguise of conscience- 


What did Mr. Williams answer to this thought? 


He did evade it by answering, the Lord also commanded 
"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." 
But who has cried false witness against his neighbor? 
I tell you it is a head that runs around. 


But though confused a danger to our unity. 

He must be stopped from sins against his conscience. 


And we, Sir, must be careful of sins to ours. (To COTTON) 
Did you question him further on the magistrates 
In addition to the Salem incident? 


He has a general principle, a storm of clouds in his words, 
That magistrates may not punish any breach of the First 
Table of the Decalogue. 


If this should ever occur our civil officers 
Could not even enforce the Sabbath. 


Then I quoted him the declaration of the First Helvetic 

Conference that: 

"The chief office of the magistrate is to defend religion 
And to take care that the word of God is purely 



He did deny that? 

SCHEVHX: The Bloody Tenet 359 


No, but he stressed the word defend and take care 
And called them words of peace and not attack, 
And hinted darkly of invented devotions to the God of 


What meant he by "invented devotions"? 


It is hard to find the force of clarity 

On the surface of a muddy stream, 

But it seemed he meant the magistrates. 

He thinks it wrong that clergymen have vested interests 

Together with the magistrates upon our state. 

But what these vested interests are, 

And where the ministers that sin, he cannot say. 


What do you think of this, Mr. Hooker? 


I have known Mr. Williams and liked him, 

But he is a danger wrapped in the cloak of simplicity. 

It is the seeming innocents who carry 

Tight beneath their friendly love the flame of a despotic 

That burns the union of the church and state. 


Are you convinced, Mr. Winthrop, 
Of the need for this reluctant trial? 


Must it be a session of the General Court? 
With time, can we not persuade him 
By a delegation of more ministers? 



It is too late for that, but there is merit in your thought. 
What if beside the magistrates and deputies upon the 

General Court, 

We summon our ministers within the Bay? 
Such a trial, with all our eminence of leadership, 
Held here in this honored church of Mr. Hooker, 
Must persuade him of his errors 
And bring his soul back to aid our colony. 


When would you hold the trial? 


It must be soon for many churches threaten separation. 


Let us set the morning of October 8. 


But he is sick upon his bed. 

Is it just to force him to attend so soon? 


Mr. Cotton thinks it but a sickness of the mind. 


It seemed a sickness that can stand a trial's debate, 
And sometimes in a mind's dark fever, 
The light of grace strikes suddenly. 


Our magistrates and deputies must be notified. 


I will arrange for them. 


And you, Sirs, I ask you to approach our ministers. 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 361 


We will do so. 


You will attend, Mr. Winthrop, and lend us your aid? 

WINTHROP (hesitating) i 
I will hear the evidence. 

As the scene ends, the choir is heard singing 

"David the King was grieved and moved, 

He went to his chamber, his chamber and wept. 

And as he wept, he wept and said: 

'O my son, O my son, 

Would to God I had died, 

Would to God I had died.' " 

SCENE in: The home of ROGER WILLIAMS. Only a rough cot 
is needed to indicate the change of setting. 

WILLIAMS (enters, tired and dusty) : 

Mary! I am home. (He slumps down on the edge of the 

MARY (enters): 

You were gone so long I was worried. Are you ill again?- 


No, only tired and weak. Give me some water, 
I have been riding many hours. 

MARY (She gives him some water and feels his forehead) : 
You are feverish. Why did you ride? 


I had to ride today. And would not ride against your 


If you had known you would have begged me stay at 


You were not busy with your trading duties? 


No, I rode this morning to keep a secret meeting with 




Yes, the chief of the Narragansett Indians. 


But our people all distrust him. 
They fear him for planning 
Savage crimes against our settlers. 


The summons I expected came yesterday. 
I must stand trial in three days 
Before the General Court in Newtown. 


The General Court! 


They have charged me with heresy 

And called me a danger to the state. 

They have even asked their ministers to attend 

And placed the trial in Hooker's Church 

To sharpen my guilt under God's law. 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 363 


Why then did Mr. Cotton visit you? 

You were companions in the flight from England. 


He sought to persuade me of my errors, but failed. 
Mary, I know they will be strict at this General Court . . . 


They cannot take your life? 


Some might have the wish, but I do not think 
They dare so far although I have bitter enemies. 


What will happen to you? 


I think they will plot to send me back to England, 
Convicted of disloyalty, in a winter passage of shame 
Before my friends. But I will not go. 


They are many and hold the power. 


I have bought land in Narragansett 

From their chief, Canonicus, 

And mean to found a colony there if I am exiled. 


Another colony? How can you trust this heathen savage? 


Mary, we have been guilty of great wrong to the Indians. 
We have seized their land by force, 
But I have made peace with Canonicus. 


What peace is there in another colony? 

I remember Mr. Cotton preaching once from Samuel: 

Moreover, I will appoint a place -for my people Israel, 

And I will plant them that they may dwell 

In a place of their own and move no more. 

They are words I have never forgotten. 


Would you have me compromise 

And tell the Court all my acts were lies? 


How can I judge you? I am your wife. 
Oh, I would help you but I have nothing of your learn- 

I will always follow you and do as you ask me, 
But do not ask my understanding. 


Do you think I understand myself? 

What dreamer understands the wilderness of his dream? 

Riding by the ocean this dawn 

Where the boats rocked at their anchors, 

I saw the sentinel gulls perched on their high posts 

In patient time, and the leaves drifted deathwards 

Back to matter on the still water, and I thought, 

It is always God's time in the sun. 

He moves towards birth and death in His mysterious 


And no man stands the luxury of His light. 
How then can I understand the shadows of my dream? 
But I think if that dream ever were extinguished 
My little source of God's light is gone. 


Although I cannot share your dream 
I would not fight against it. 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 365 


We have a child, Mary, and you expect 

Another one within two months. 

No one will harm you here. They would not dare that, 

And when I have a free settlement in the land 

I shall, with God's love, call by the name of Providence, 

I will send for you and the children. 

Is it selfish of me to hold my views? 


You were never a selfish man. Last month, 

When you separated from our Salem church as teacher, 

You let me go on praying there 

Despite the whisperings of many tongues. 


It is your own conscience, Mary, 

And I have no right to interfere with that. 


You always speak of conscience as mine or yours. 
Has not our family a conscience too? 



I cannot help my tongue. 
When we fled by ship from England 
Our company was Christian men. 
Now you deal with heathen Indians. 


Your words are unjust. Here in the Bay 

The Indian is our torment and we persecute him 

With a bloody tenet because his religion is not ours. 

But I have bought this soil from Canonicus. 

His tribe will not disturb our settlement. 


And what will happen to our children? It is a risk fc 


.The children will be safe. I will not send for you 
Until I prove my faith with the Indians. 


I pray that your pride of conscience 
Does not forsake the word of God. 


You must not judge me, Mary. 

Conscience is only a persuasion 

Fixed in the mind and heart of man 

That forces him to choose his way to God. 

I have seen the Gates of Hell and through them 

Enter preachers as well as lawyers, artisans, farmers, 

Men who had no conscience in their choice. 


Why must your conscience lead to my bitter isolation? 
Why must I endure this loneliness? 
An exile from my husband, and then another exile 
In the wilderness from our holy church. (She is en/in, 
and fighting to control herself. ) 


This will not be an exile, Mary. 

Do you remember what the Lord said to Rebekah? 

"Two nations are in thy womb, and the one people 

Shall be stronger than the other people 

And the elder shall serve the younger." 

Here in the Bay I think we are the elder nation 

And have failed to find the true peace of God's will, 

But there in Narragansett we of the Bay 

Shall found and serve the younger nation, 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 367 

That men may live and worship in peace 
And the land be open before us. (He pauses.) 
Mary, if all this is my vanity 
Tell me and I will act against it. 

MARY ( controlling herself) : 

I think no woman can judge a man's pride 
Before the Lord, least of all a wife her husband. 
It is my duty to go with you where you will go. 


I would not have it a mere duty. 

MARY (after a slight pause) : 

You must rest. I will get you food. (She goes out.) 
WILLIAMS (he picks up the Bible and begins to read) : 
"And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she 
was barren: and the Lord was intreated of him, and 
Rebekah his wife conceived. And the children struggled 
together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I 
thus?' And she went to enquire of the Lord. And tibe 
Lord said unto her, 'Two nations are in thy womb . . / '" 
Worn out, he falls asleep. The choir is heard sing- 
ing very softly, "DAVID THE KING." The lights dim 
suddenly and the bloody, shadowy outline of the 
Indian chief, CANONICUS, is seen. WILLIAMS start* 


Canonicus! Fever burns my brain. 

This is a vision of blood. What have we done in New 

Under the cross of the living God, with a prayer of 


We have possessed the dead stones from the Indians, 
With a greed for great portions of land 
And a depraved appetite for the vanity of power. 
Oh, Canonicus, can I ever make peace with you? 
In the bloody thoughts you bring me 


What are all the wars of this world about 

But for greater dishes and bowls of gain? 

We will drive your people from your land 

And burn your crude huts and kill your warriors 

And you will murder our Christian settlers. 

But if you will let me build my Providence 

Perhaps a small memory of gentle peace 

Between the Indian and white man will live on, 

A grain of conscience for the lies of vanity. 

Having bought truth dear we must not sell it cheap, 

Not the least grain of it for the whole world, 

Least of all for the bitter sweetening 

Of a little vanishing pleasure, for a little 

Puff of reputation from the changeable breath of men, 

For the broken bags of riches that fall from eagles' wings, 

For a dream of those which on our deathbed 

Vanish and leave tormenting flames behind them. 

What are the leaves and flowers and smoke of earthly 


About which we poor fools disquiet ourselves in vain? 
Eternity, eternity, is our business. 

The figure of CANONICUS disappears. Agitated, WIL- 
LIAMS begins to read from the Bible again. 
"And he dreamed, and, behold, a ladder set up on the 
earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and, behold, 
the angels of the Lord ascending and descending on it. 
And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, 1 am the 
Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: 
the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and 
to thy seed; and thy seed shall be as the dust of the 
earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to 
the east, and to the north, and to the south . . / " 

The figure of sm EDWARD COKE appears. He is 
richly clothed in Elizabethan formal dress in con- 
trast to the severe Puritan clothing of WILLIAMS. 


Sir, you speak too soon of eternity . . . 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 369 

Who are you? 


The dust of the earth of which you read. 


Sir Edward Cokel 


I thought your conscience had shadowed out a thought 
of me. 


I have never forgotten you. 


You remember my power then? 


I could never forget the Chief Justice of England. 


After the death of Queen Elizabeth, 
When I continued as Chief Justice 
Of the Star Chamber under King James, 
I made you my chief stenographer. 


Yes . . . there in the Star Chamber which I came to 

think of 

As a web of spiders weaving testimony of the 
King's intrigues, I learned to dream of God. 


Was it of God you dreamt, or of the noblemen 
Whose deaths I caused, beheaded Essex and Southamp- 


I felt their shadows in that courtroom always 
Trials in which I knew you took the throne's part, 
But knew not your exact role. 


You knew the role I played, but shut your eyes 

For conscience-ease. You were a man who wrote short- 

As well as any clerk in England and enjoyed 

The pleasure of your trust, the glitter of 

London's dancing fairs, the full-dress executions on 
Tower Hill. 


Do not mock me! I was born into the Age of Puritans 
And never knew the rule of Queen Elizabeth. 


True, she died the year that you were born, 

But under King James's rule, you saw me preside 

Over the trial of the poisoners of Sir Thomas Overbury, 


I hated all the nobles' cheating pomp and scorn of God! 


You hated me when the wardrobe mistress, Mrs. Turner, 
A conspirator in the Overbury poisoning, 
The inventor of a yellow starch for cuffs, took the stand 
And I called her, "Whore, bawd, papist!" And had her 

You remember the executioner wore yellow starched 



I did hate the rule of James which brought a 

Bloody autumn of persecution for cause of conscience. 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 371 


What a peacock your conscience is 
Preening itself with illusion. 
Despite your revulsion from the Star Chamber 
You sucked willingly on my power, 
Attended college on my recommending word, 
Nourished yourself on my patronage. 


I did ever admire your belief in the Common Law 

And your fight for parliamentary rights against the King 

Until I came to know the truer law of God's will. 


Hypocrite! You became a puritan as a boy, 
A step your tailor father hated and so you hated your 
parents too! 


The tailor and the cruel court were bound together. 
Without the tailor who could be a fop 
And preen and ape indecent ways? 


This is your curse of conscience then, to hate your 


And all your youth to act the pure and godly rebel 
While serving me inside the Star Chamber. 

WILLIAMS (agonizingly) : 

I did ever dream of God, even in the Star Chamber! 


Even when you became a minister and chaplain 
In the household of Sir William Masham at Otes 
And fell in love with Lady Masham's daughter, Jug? 
This lust was your dream of God? 


It is not true! 


But Lady Masham would not have you 
As a low-born husband for her daughter 
And so your conscience sank again. 
In springtime of your sex and bitterness 
You married your wife, Mary 
Who was nothing but Jug's maid. 


Devil, devil! Why do you torture me 
When I did always love you? 


Devil of conscience perhaps, 
Curse of pride. Is it not true? 


No, it is ... half true. My pride caused me bitter 

Against the Lady Masham, and my need turned me to 

her maid, 
My wife, Mary, whom I learned to love. 


But married from lust. 


Married from need of love perhaps, but not from lust. 
It is true I feared God for my hate against Lady Masham 
Who thought me low-born for her daughter; 
This was my sin of pride. 

COKE (scornfully) : 
What is the reward you seek then? 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 373 


I live only for the fear and grace of God. 


How can you hope for the grace of God 

When you say you live in fear of His name? 

Did not John preach: "Perfect love casts out fear"? 


You are the tempter conscience dreads, 

And yet I think no human love is perfect. 

The true love of God never casts out 

The true fear of God but only that which is 

False and counterfeit, the fear of beasts and slaves. 

Men must learn to live with fear before they come to 


And so it was the spirit of the fear of God 
Poured down upon the Lord Jesus himself. 


Go to your trial of man's law then, 
Go with your fear and seek your hope; 
Go with your lust and seek deliverance; 
Go with your pride and seek humility; 
But remember your English past in the Star Chamber, 
The parents whom you hated, and the passion of your 
springtime love. 
He vanishes. 

Mary! Mary! 

MARY (enters): 

Did you call? Is it pain again? 


Pain of conscience, Mary. 


I dreamt I saw Sir Edward Coke 

Who called me back to the Star Chamber. 


You must not go to court so soon. 

& is cruel in your sickness to make you attend. 

I must go if God wills it, 


How can you judge God's will? 

Can you not convince them of your innocence? 


Mary, I cannot convince even you 
That I do not act from pride only. 


A proud man is like a tower in the sun. 

Who can tell if the tower points to God 

Or the vanity of man's dream? 

You are my husband. I cannot judge your pride. 


Mary, I have done you wrong. I would not lose your 


Love is not the daring of a dream 

But of a daily harmony. When men and women marry 
I think they know little of love 
Which comes only with living together. 


We have been married six years, Mary. 
Can you love my stubborn soul? 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 375 


I pray against your pride 

And do not understand your actions 

But I know you seek in them the grace of God. 

I have not your words, but you have my love. 


Mary, I am sick in mind. From my pride 
Humility can only flow with your love. 

He turns away from her, deeply moved. 
I must study now. (He picks up the Bible.) 

MARY (going to him) : 
You must rest, not study. 


I cannot rest until God's will is done at this trial. 
The Father of Spirits is my witness of the search 
My spirit has made after Him in all passages from the 


The fruits I have suffered and gained from this sickness 

I hope I shall never forget. Mary, let me read to you. 

She sits beside him on the cot and he begins to 

read to her from the Bible, from the Twenty-Fourth 


The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; 
The world, and they that dwell therein. 
For he hath founded it upon the seas, 
And established it upon the floods. 

Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? 
Or who shall stand in His holy place? 
He that hath clean hands and a pure heart; 
Who hath not lifted up his soul into vanity, noi' 
sworn deceitfully. 

He shall receive the blessing -from the Lord, 
And righteousness from the God of his salvation. 


This is the generation of them that seek him, 

That seek thy face, O Jacob. 

Lift up your heads, O ye gates; 

And be ye lift tip, ye everlasting doors; 

And the King of glory shall come in . . . 

As he reads, the lights dim slowly as the scene ends 
and the choir is heard once more singing, "The 
Land is fair, the air is soft, etc." 

SCENE iv: Hooker's Church in Newtown, now Cambridge, 
Massachusetts. October 8, 1635. At the left are seen 
seated at the right in the first row of pews. 

HAYNES (turning and looking back, as if viewing the magis- 
trates) : 
Mr. Dudley, are all our magistrates assembled? 


They are here, already seated, Governor Haynes. 
We are fifty magistrates and deputies, many weary 
From their day-long travels to attend this General Court. 

And the ministers we asked by special invitation? 

WINTHROP (pointing in the direction of COTTON and 

They have arrived and are accounted in their seats. 


It is well. The added presence of 

So many men of God must persuade Mr. Williams. 

In these devout and honored souls he cannot help 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 377 

But read his errors. Before we start the trial 
I will talk with Mr. Hooker and Mr. Cotton. 

He walks down toward the congregation and HOOKER 

and COTTON rise to greet him. 


It is a cold day for October. 

God grant we do not freeze before this trial ends. 


Mr. Dudley, it is the cold of the soul 
Crawling on the dirt floor of this church 
That is on trial this day. If we freeze, Sir, 
It is not our flesh from the frost of winter weather 
But our souls for unjust persecution. 

DUDLEY (angered) : 

Do you call this solemn trial 
Unjust before it has a start? 


I speak only of our need to follow God's laws. 

Much civil hatred has been raised against Mr. Williams 

But he still has a strength of friends. 


This is the General Court and he shall speak 
Even if it be his toleration folly. 
I hope you do not judge this rebel minister 
Against the Bay because he was your friend. 


I will hear the arguments . . . (He turns away from 


Mr. Hooker, we are many officers 


And bulge the walls of your small church, 
But we are grateful for your hospitality. 


I am honored, Sir, to have my church 

As host to all the General Court, 

But shamed that Mr. Williams should be here on trial. 


As are we all and trust that he will change 

When he does see the sacred weight and purpose 

Of our magistrates and men of God. (turning to COTTON) 

Mr. Cotton, it pleases me that 

You and all our ministers are present 

It is a true and solemn meeting of God's will 

And I thank you for this plan 

To bring together ministers and magistrates. 


This unity of minds must sway his stubborn views, 

For he is a real danger, Sir. All people 

Speak for him on sight and do not see beneath his mask 

of love 
The Devil's swamp to which this toleration leads. 


After I question him on the letters he did write 
Blocking our magistrates' authority and urging 
His Salem church to separate completely from our 


Of the Bay, I will ask Mr. Hooker to debate with him 
And as arranged you will also press the Charges. 


As God calls us to fight all heresy 

That His original Nation may revive again, 

It is an onerous duty I cannot avoid. 

HAYNES returns to his seat. COTTON and HOOKER 
take their seats. 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 379 


Let Mr. Williams know the Court is ready. 

The choir is heard singing softly "DAVID THE KING/' 
WILLIAMS enters. HAYNES motions him to the de- 
fendant's chair. 


Before we begin the interrogation, Mr. Williams, 
The members of the General Court have been disturbed 
By your unwillingness to approve the authority 
Of the Bay government. I would like first to ask 
If you accept the responsibility and judgment of this 


I do respect the members of this Court, 

But it is by God's word only that I desire 

To stand or fall in trial and judgment; for all flesh is 


And the beauty of flesh is but the beauty of grass, 
Only the word of God stands fast forever. 


You imply that members of the Court 
Do not speak God's word on earth? 


I think, Sir, that man's wish is not always God's will. 


By that indirection, do you mean 
Your toleration of any cranks of God? 


It was a fair answer. Let Governor Haynes proceed with 
the questions. 


Mr. Williams, do you deny writing this seditious letter 


To all our churches in the Bay, (Showing the letter) 

Complaining of the magistrates 

For their injustice to the Salem church? 


I do deny the letter was seditious. 


But you admit the letter. 


The letter I have written protested the magistrates* rights 

To refuse the petition of our Salem church 

For land in Marblehead Neck only for the reason 

That Salem refused to cast me out as teacher. 

Is it just to punish Salem because of me? 


Did not the Salem congregation elect you as teacher 
And were they not aware of the letter? 


They did join with me in the letter. 


Do you admit the letter accused 

The lawful magistrates and deputies, in your own words, 

Of a "heinous sin and a breach of the rule of justice"? 


Is it justice to bring about an action 
By an inaction and by threats? 


Look how he avoids commenting 

On the hot-blooded words, "heinous sin." 


My language was perhaps too prideful but I do think 
There was a sin of error against the Salem church. 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 381 

So you begin your admission but retreat from it. 


I do not believe we are here 

To judge Mr. Williams's intemperate language. 

It is the danger of his actions we must test. 


Is not the letter an action, Mr. Winthrop? 


Let me proceed with the questioning. 


Before we turn from this point, Sir, 
May I ask why the magistrates and elders 
Refused to read our Salem letter 
To their congregations? Were they afraid? 

DUDLEY (beside himself) : 

Is he to be permitted such insolence? 


This is the General Court, Mr. Dudley. 

We are not the Inquisition. Let Governor Haynes reply. 


We live in a young world of our Lord, Mr. Williams, 
Surrounded by wilderness and heathen enemies of His 

And so must enforce a central government in God's 


Lest petty camps of selfish gain destroy our faith. 
Is your trust in the Salem congregation yet full? 


I think they are still my friends in God. 



But we have heard you are no longer 

A teacher in the Salem church. Is this true? 


You know it is true. I have separated. 


Will you give us cause for this break? 


When the Salem church was threatened 
The members decided to hold communion 
With the churches of the Bay 
And to accept the Marblehead Neck Land 
That was in dispute. So I withdrew. 


Threatened, you say, Mr. Williams, threatened! 
This is abstract and general, Sir. Who did this threaten- 


I believe it was the magistrates of the Bay. (General 


You would accuse us directly? Has your pride no bounds? 


Mr. Williams, it is a general and serious accusation. 


By your own admission you have left your Salem church 

And stand alone before this Court, accused 

Even by your Salem friends ... I wish to show you a 

second letter. 
(He produces the letter) Do you deny this writing? 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 383 


No, it is my hand. 


This is a letter to your Salem church? 

It is. 


In which you seek to persuade your congregation 

To renounce communion with all the churches in the 


As ... "full of anti-Christian pollution"? 
Are those your words, Sir? 

WILLIAMS (after a pause) : 

They are my words, if my merit is not gentle writing. 
I do not deny them. I have always believed in 
The separation of the church from any national or popish 

DUDLEY (enraged): 

You dare to call the Bay churches a popish organization? 


Gentlemen, we are not here to argue 

The organization of the Bay churches against the Salem 

Let us present the specific charges against Mr. Williams. 


Since the letters have been acknowledged I should like 
First to give Mr. Williams a final chance to recant them. 


Mr. Williams, will you reconsider the spirit of your 

Revenge is not our purpose in this Court. 


I do not deny a sinful pride 

That I work against in my person, 

But I cannot recant the spirit of my letters. 


What shall we do with a pride that condemns 
And prompts itself all in a locked unison? 


I can accept it, Mr. Dudley. Have you never felt it? 


Please, Sirs, I ask Mr. Winthrop to read the specific 

Then I will appoint the arguer of the Charges. 

WINTHROP (reading) :"On this eighth day of October, in 
the year of our Lord, 1635, the General Court of Massa- 
chusetts, meeting in solemn session, does present the 
following Charges against Mr. Roger Williams of Salem: 

First, that Mr. Williams has constantly rebuked the 
churches of Massachusetts Bay for not abjuring all con- 
nection with the Church of England. 

Second, that Mr. Williams has disputed, refused to 
sign, and contended against the Resident's Oath of Fi- 
delity which the magistrates had ordered for safeguard 
of the colony. 

Third, that Mr. Williams has contested the validity of 
the charter of Massachusetts, granted to the colony by 
the King's hand. 

Fourth, that Mr. Williams has declared that the civil 
magistrates of the Bay have not the power to punish 
breaches of the First Table of the Decalogue. 


You have heard the Charges, Mr. Williams, 
Drawn up by the fifty members of this Court 

SCHEVELL: The Bloody Tenet 385 

And attested by our ministers whom we have invited 


You will be given your chance to answer. 
The Court has asked our honored minister, 
Mr. Thomas Hooker, to debate with you. 
The Court has also requested our learned Man of God, 
Mr. John Cotton, to speak. I do think you will listen to 

Since you have known them to speak the Lord's word. 


I respect them and desire that my rejoinders 
Shall be as full of love as truth. 


A mixed figure again, pricked with pride. 


Let Mr. Hooker and Mr. Cotton debate with him, and 

he must change 
By the force of their gift. They are distinguished 



Mr. Hooker will begin with the First Charge. 

HOOKER (rises) : 

In the First Charge, the issue is one of separation, 
Whether our Bay churches shall be secure and centrally 


Or split off completely from the Church of England. 
I do not think Mr. Williams will now accuse me 
Of a friendship with the English church under King 

He remembers well how Archbishop Laud suppressed 

my lectureship 
And drove me from the land on pain of death. It was the 



English hierarchy, kin to the tyrannical structure of 


Where no man could speak himself to God and 
The voices of the congregation sank into a whisper. 
That Mr. Williams, Mr. Cotton and myself did suffer 


I ask Mr. Williams if he recalls the day of exile 
When we three ministers rode together from our homes 
Fleeing the Courts of Injustice for this new world? 


I do remember and honor that day of our friendship 
And persuasion against the national church when it was 
Bitter as death to me that Bishop Laud pursued us out 
of the land. 


It is well. He will be persuaded. 


Here in this green harbor of the Bay we began anew 
The eternal task of salvation, surrounded by all perils 
Of the wilderness and of the hidden, heathen savages; 
And we considered gratefully God's words: 

"This is the token of the covenant which I make 
between me and you and every -living creature 
that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do 
set my bow in the cloud, and when the bow shall 
be seen in that cloud, I will remember my cove- 
nant, and the waters shall -no more become a 
flood to destroy all flesh." 

It is God's bow we have seen in this clouded land 
Commanding us to remember this eternal covenant, 
And to unite forever the church and state. 
In our congregations we have exercised a new freedom 
And given them the privilege of election which belongs 
To the people according to the blessed will and 
Lasting law of God. But if we separate from our 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 387 

English mother church and stifle the growth of 

Our theocratic state, we cast aside all hope 

Of law and unity, of peaceful growth in God's new land. 

Turning directly to WILLIAMS. 
I pray with you, good friend, let not 
This colony of Massachusetts be like that sheet 
Let down from heaven, clung to by beasts and 
Creeping things, but let it be a Garden of the Lord. (He 
sits down.) 


He cannot refute this gift of tongue! 


It is well-spoken. 


Mr. Williams, what is your consideration of these words? 


Mr. Hooker has spoken well of God's covenant to Noah, 

But I remind him of the Tower of Babel where God said: 

"Behold, the people is -one, and they have all one 

language; and this they begin to do; and now 

nothing will be restrained from tihem, which they 

have imagined to do. Go -to, let us go down, and 

there confound their language, that they may not 

understand one another's speech." 

And therefore was the language of all men confounded 

As a warning to man's soul from the Lord. I do not 

The Old Testament can be read in a complete and 

solemn literalness. 

It is figures, stories of God's will, and if you seek 
To build from it again a nation modeled after ancient 

Such a thing can never come to pass. The Lord did 


Scatter men upon the face of earth that in their lonely 

They would seek God's grace and never build again a 

unity of church and state. 


It is heresy to take the Bible as mere figures! 


What does Mr. Cotton say to this? 


For myself I find it sinful to take God's words 

As anything but sense. Does not Mr. Williams remember 

The honored Calvin's saying on those who speak of 

stories in the Bible: 
"It is better to confess ignorance than to play with 

frivolous guesses"? 


I have read the learned Calvin's words, 

But I do think that in the heart of man 

We live by figures of good and evil; 

And that when the witnesses of Jesus Christ 

Have opened a gap in the wall of separation 

Between the garden of the church and the wilderness of 
the world, 

God has ever broken down the wall and made His gar- 
den a wilderness again. 

The word of God cannot be shown clearly by the stric- 
tures of 

A national church lest every conscience be forced into 
a soul-rape. 

Soul-rape indeed! 

You have spoken on the First Charge, Mr. Williams, 

SCHEVELL: The Bloody Tenet 389 

And we hear your words of passion with regret. 
I ask Mr. Cotton to speak on the Second Charge. 

COTTON (he stands): 

The Second Charge concerns the Resident's Oath of 

Requested by the magistrates to insure due loyalty to 


And to all lawful functions of the Bay authorities. 
This oath did arise upon hearing of some episcopal 
And malignant practices against the colony, when the 

And others of the General Court thought meet to take 

a trial 
Of the people's faith. In case any should refuse to sign 

the oath 

They would not be elected to public command. 
None can say that oaths are novel to this colony; 
In early times men swore by sacred rivers, 
The Jew swore with his sacred scrolls in his hand, 
Doctors have always taken oaths to cure 
And clergymen have read their solemn oaths of ordina- 

In our mother England the practice of 
Kissing the Good Book and swearing arose in the Middle 

An oath is but a sign of man's allegiance to the Lord. 

WILLIAMS (rising): 

I am not as versed in history of oaths 

As is the honored scholar, Mr. Cotton, 

But I do agree that oaths are not a universal evil. 

It is often just that men should swear to do God's will. 


Why then is it unjust that the Bay in time of growing 


As security from savages and disloyal men, 
Should demand allegiance to the ways of God? 


Because it is an oath of force and not of choice. 
You would have every boy of sixteen years 
And every man above that age within the Bay 
Speak and sign that tight and lengthy oath. 
Is this an act of freedom? 


I fear, Sir, you will not face the facts. 
We are few men within this narrow Bay 
And ringed around by many heathen Indians. 
If we do not command obedience to our church 
How will this colony survive? 


If it is God's will, it will survive, 

As rule by man's will alone will perish. 

Since that first fall from the immortal Garden, 

Religion is no longer the clear waters of God in which 

Man swims toward the light, but a muddy surface 

Armed with a fin which razors towards the soul. 


Sir, this oath I think is not a razor. I bid you 
Not become a haberdasher of small questions. 


Many questions, Mr. Cotton, for the Lord 

Suit better than a lack of change into His mercy. 


This is splinters, Mr. Williams, splinters. 
Can you not give us clearer cause against the oath? 


An oath is but an act of worship and prayer, 
An image of trust wrung freely trom a loyal soul. 

SCHEVELL: The Bloody Tenet 391 

It does profane both acts of worship and of prayer 

To force an oath on one whose lips it sounds 

False and sinful. In Matthew and in James 

Christ counsels, "Swear not at all." 

If we consider this wise injunction, 

Then we must fear the nature of false oaths. 

An oath, being an invocation of God's truth, is 

An action of deep spirit and religious nature. 

Christian men ought not to take an oath 

Merely to maintain mortal men in offices of power. 


I think he speaks as many men agree. 


He is contesting at us magistrates. 


Mr. Williams, you will not change upon this oath? 


I have not been persuaded. 


I beg you consider, Sir, the time is late. 

We have honored your reputation and long tolerated 

your dissent. 

I beg you think if the honored names here gathered 
In this Newtown church speak nothing more than air to 



Sir, I listen to your charges with respect, 
When you are many voices to my one. 


Let Mr. Hooker speak upon the Third Charge. 


HOOKER (he stands) : 

In the Third Charge, it is the claim of Mr. Williams 

That the Charter of our Bay, granted by the King, 

Gives us no legal right to own the land. 

For this puzzle I have no statement but a question. 

We are a people of God in what was once the Devil's 


Would Mr. Williams have us depart 
And leave God's new land to the savages? 


He is a haberdasher and cannot wriggle from that point. 


How can we leave the land to the Indians 

When they were here before our ships arrived? 

I have heard the men of this court speak of 

The danger of savages and the security of this colony of 


I know what it is to study, to preach, to be an elder, 
To be applauded and yet also what it is to tug at the 


And dig with the spade in rocky soil, to plow and labor 
And travel by day and night amongst English and those 

you call Devils. 
I have earned my family's food by barter with the 

And have seen the same sun shine on the wilderness as 


Shine upon the order of a garden. In that wilderness 
How sweetly did I hear the several sorts of heaven's birds 
Sing unto men the soaring praise of their maker's wis- 
dom and goodness; 
And to me the wilderness was a clear resemblance of 

the world 
Where greedy and furious men persecute and devour the 

hinds and roes. 

SCHEVHX: The Bloody Tenet 393 


There bloom his figures again. 


Mr. Hooker will answer him. 


We have heard you have forsaken your minister's career 
For trade with the Indians. Do you consider it 
Just and truthful that those called by God 
Should learn and follow the ways of savages? 


Your inference is that my time is lost 

Because not in the function of ministry. 

I admit the offices of Christ are the sacred 

And best callings, but generally they are the worst trades 

As they are practiced only for a maintenance, 

A place, a living, a benefice. 


That is twist for turn. 


You confess, then, that you trade with savages 
And make no effort to bring them to God's word? 


I spoke no confession. A great will can convert 
Many men, but the convert through will power 
Belongs to the will and not to God. 


Sir, if it is right you trade with Indians, 
Why can we not minister to our Charter? 


Because as God's children we know the world lies in 


A sea of wild beasts, and God is over this wild, foaming 


Over the heathen Indians as well as Christians. 
Where have you gained this Charter? From the Indians 
Who had the land before a ship sailed into port, 
Or from the King who never did set foot on it? 


Do I understand, Sir, you believe a Christian King 

Cannot give title to a savage land 

In God's name and for God's sacred word? 


I do contend the land was seized and sanctioned 

By the King. There was no purchase from the Indians. 


Mr. Williams, you have spoken against oaths, 

Saying unregenerate men cannot swear. 

How then can a savage swear away a land by purchase? 

Would not such acts blaspheme against the Lord? 


I have lived much with these Indians. 
My soul's desire was to do them good 
And God was pleased to give me a powerful, patient 


To lodge with them in their filthy, smoky holes 
To gain their tongue. They have no clothes, books nor 


And therefore are easily persuaded 
That the God who made Englishmen is a greater God 
Because He has endowed the English greater than 


And yet amongst their government and justice 
I could never discern that scandalous excess of sins 
With which old Europe does abound. Is it just then to 
Strike them with the civil sword and seize their lands? 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 395 


You have slipped my question, Sir. 
How can a savage swear to a purchase? 


It is not the savage who must swear 

But the Christian bound to God's word. I wish to say 

That what you are trying in me here is a desire, 

A desire more perfect than human actions, 

More beautiful than human aims, 

A desire for the clarity of God's grace. 


It is too perfect. 


I do not think that search for Christian grace can come 
From smiting and killing savages, but only from 
The patient aim to bear and carry the cross and gallows 
Of our Lord and patiently to suffer with Him. 


Mr. Williams, we live in a new wilderness 

And the Lord descends on this land as He descended 

In fire on Moses atop Mount Sinai. Then you remember 

There were thunder and lightnings and a thick cloud 

Upon the mount and the voice of the trumpet exceeding 


So that all the people in the camp trembled. 
This is the state of this colony in the Bay, Sir, 
And the Lord calls us as He- called to Moses: 

"Thou shalt have no other Gods before me. Thou 
shalt not make unto thee any graven image . . . 
for I the Lord am a jealous God, visiting the in- 
iquity of the fathers upon the children . . ." 
This is a strict God for heathens, Mr. Williams. 
He commands our absolute faith and devotion 
And will punish ourselves if we deal with savages. 


This word cannot be denied. 


Sir, you have a last chance to refute this sense. 


I do speak against the bloody tenet of persecution for 

cause of conscience, 

That forces men to use the sword in cause of Christ, 
A tenet of high blasphemy against the Lord of peace 

who said, 
"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the 

children of God/' 
A tenet fighting the sweet end of Christ's coming which 

Not to destroy men's lives for their religions, but to save 


A tenet against which the blessed souls under the altar 
Cry aloud for vengeance, this tenet having cut their 

Torn out their hearts, and poured forth their blood in 

all ages; 

A tenet which no uncleanness, no adultery, no incest, 
Sodomy, or bestiality can equal this ravishment and 
Forcing of souls and conscience throughout the world. 
I say to this Court this bloody tenet kindles the devour- 
ing flames of war 
And is mingled with the murders and poisonings of longs 

and states. 
If we do force the nature of the Prince of Peace against 

these heathens 
We are that stiff-necked people whom the Lord accused 

to Moses. 
The Christian church does not prosecute, no more than 

Does scratch the thorns, or a lamb pursue and tear the 


SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 397 


Sir, we have permitted you to counter our General Court 
With lengthy passion, but this I must ask Mr. Cotton to 


I will not exercise a vanity of pride. 
It is enough to speak the conscience of this Court, 
Our fifty magistrates and many ministers 
Who speak this colony's God-humbled will. 
Like Moses, we live in a new world of God, 
A new land of Israel, to war against idolaters, 
And in this war we speak the prayer of peace 
But carry a sword to defend ourselves and homes. 
It is the will of God, His truth, 
Never to kill or banish any for conscience, 
But this Court speaking in God's name 
Has the right and duty to punish those 
Who sin against their own true conscience 
Whether from pride, or other commandments of the 


Mr. Williams has been refuted. If any officer 

Will add his thoughts I ask him now to speak. (There is 

a tense silence.) 
Mr. Cotton will present the final Charge. 


In the Fourth Charge, Mr. Williams declares steadfastly 

That the Civil Magistrate may not punish 

Breaches of the First Table of the Decalogue 

And declares us in danger of setting up a national church 

For that we punish breaches of this Table. 

It is his view that commandments in the First Table 

Pertain to man's duties to the Lord 

And therefore cannot be punished by civil officers. 

But it is my view that our congregational system, 


Wherein each member of the church can freely voice 

God's word, 

Requires for its maintenance a vigorous magistracy. 
These magistrates are elders of the church and 
Therefore strong-willed men of God. Does Mr. Williams 

Such men likely to rule against the Lord? 


Within this church and Court we speak upon the Bible's 

But all of you, I think, do know and praise the words of 

When he said: "The laws of the civil -magistrate's 
government extend no further than over the body 
and goods and that which is external; for over 'the 
Soul God will not suffer any man to rule." 


It is a special situation, Sir, 

Many of the civil magistrates whom Luther fought were 

Bound to Rome. In a wild and savage country like this 


The foundation of the civil power must lie 
In magistrates who do God's will, else must the heathen 

Prance once more around their Calf of Gold. 


You always harken back to ancient Israel, 
A blessed nation dead in time. That wrath 
And glory of God cannot ever be revived. 


Must all states then be secular? 

How would you guide this youthful land, 

Open it wide to enemies of the church? 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 399 


I think the wilderness of every land is like the sea. 
Out on this sullen sea goes many a ship 
Crammed with hundreds of hungry souls, 
Each with his own crude, common woes 
And so this ship is like a commonwealth; 
Upon it, sometimes, live both Turk and Jew, 
Papist and Protestant, in common perils 
And no one forces them together for ship's prayers. 
Each prays according to his worth and need. 


A soul-saving ship? You are a most 
Prodigious minter of exorbitant novelties. 
And who may rule this ship? 


I have never denied the ship's commander 

Should command the ship's true course 

And rule that peace and justice shall be kept. 

If any seaman dare refuse his duty, 

Or any passenger conceive a lawless deed, 

The laws and orders of the ship should punish him. 

But for the hungry souls that pray to God, 

Within the private chambers of their hearts 

This ship sails true to each man's prayer. 


It is a sinking ship where each man drowns at a false 


I think it is a separation we once did believe ourselves. 


All he does is contend against the magistrates. 
Question him on this finally. 



Mr. Williams, I have pleaded with you many times, 

For 'days before the meeting of this Court 

And now within this solemn session 

To persuade you from your pride's delusion. 

If the magistrates fail to rule for God 

Pagan anarchy will rule and then, Sir, 

We shall see new tables of stone 

Engraved with the terrible fiery finger of the Lord. 


The name of Christian must deserve the name. 
Constantine and all the noted emperors are confessed to 

have done 
More hurt to the crown of Christ than did the bloody 


I say again the forcing of conscience is a rape of soul! 
The civil sword may make a nation of hypocrites 
And anti-Christians, but not one Christian. 


He calls us hypocrites I 


Ask him to recall. 


Question him on this. 


Sir, do you name our magistrates hypocrites? 


I call that man a hypocrite who thinks the civil sword, 
Bloodied in God's name, will make a Christian world. 
And I desire Mr. Cotton and every soul in this Court 
Seriously to consider if the Lord Jesus were himself in 

SCHEVDLL: The Bloody Tenet 401 

In old or in this New England, what church, what 

What government, He would set up, and what prosecu- 

He would practice toward them that would not receive 


We have spoken patiently with you for long hours, Mr. 


And have not silenced the pride of your tongue 
Although you speak as one dissent against the word of 
Many Godly men. We give you a last chance to recant 

these Charges. 


I will not recant these Charges. Whatever fate I suffer 
It is but a shadow vanished. Eternity will pay for all. 


He has spoken his fate. 


The hearing is concluded for today. 
Mr. Williams, you will return tomorrow morning 
For the judgment of this General Court. (WILLIAMS goes 

DUDLEY (vehemently, as the members of the Court begin 

their deliberation) : 

I say let men of God in court and churches watch 
O'er such as do a toleration hatch! 

The lights fade out as the scene ends and the choir 
is heard singing, WONDROUS LOVE. 


SCENE v: As the lights go up, Governor Haynes is about to 
deliver the verdict to Williams. 

HAYNES: On this morning of our Lord, October 9, 1635, the 
General Court of Massachusetts, meeting in solemn ses- 
sion, does find you, Roger Williams of Salem, unper- 
suaded after many hours of the Lord's arguments as 
humbly submitted by magistrates and ministers of His 
Bay Colony. Therefore, the General Court does find you 
guilty as charged of the following points: First, persist- 
ing and preaching the false doctrine that the Churches 
of the Bay should profess separation. Second, denying 
that a magistrate can tender an oath of Civil Obedience 
to all men of the Bay. Third, falsely declaring that the 
Royal Charter fails to give the Colony a valid title to 
the land of New England. Fourth, asserting that the 
magistrates in whom resides the civil authority should 
not punish breaches of the first four Commandments. It 
is the judgment of this General Court that . . . 

ML\N*S VOICE: Wait! 

The figures of the Court suddenly become stylized 
and stiff as if frozen in time. They hold these poses 
until Haynes completes the sentence at the end of 
the Epilogue. The lights dim around them and two 
figures in modern clothes become apparent, the 
JOURNALIST and the EVANGELIST, who are dressed as 
they were in the Prologue. 


Who are you? What do you want? Why has the trial 

SCHEVELL: The Bloody Tenet 403 


The trial hasn't stopped. It will conclude presently. 


We've come to show you the glorious past of Roger 


Why should I listen to you? 


But I'm not a devil, only a journalist, 
A historian of religion. I've studied the past of Roger 


The pursuit of the past is a passion of death. 


My study of the past is your future. 


I care only for the future salvation of man's souL 


My dear Sir, I can't give you any kind of view 
Of the future. No man sees that sort of thing. 

EVANGELIST (to WILLIAMS while she scorns the JOUR- 

Don't listen to his cynical mind. 

YouVe liberated the church from the state's tyranny. 

I can show you the glory of your own radiant prog- 
ress . . . 


She's only an evangelist. Let me begin . . . 

WILLIAMS (troubled, he speaks finally to the JOURNALIST) : 
My love is for the truth of God, and peace of conscience. 
If you can bring me that peace, begin . . . 


JOURNALIST (waving aside the EVANGELIST triumphantly): 
I bring you the peace of History. This is 1958, 
More than 350 years after your birth. You were born 
At the end of the Elizabethan age when a great culture 
was dying. 


I do not know what you mean by culture. 
I believed only in the search for God. 


That's the irony of it, Mr. Williams. 

After all these years you've been 

Taken over by this Evangelist and other fanatics. 

Your heresy has become heroic 

Under the ironic name of religious freedom. 


Don't listen to him! 

WILLIAMS (slowly) : 

I always dreamt of religious freedom 

For all churches in the wilderness of the world. 


Men have twisted your ideal of religious freedom 
And spoken of you as the precursor of Jeffersonian de- 

A founder of liberalism and rationalism, 
One of the makers of political freedom. 


I never was a politician. I hated politics. 
My only belief was in the heaven of God 
And the search for God in man's soul. 

EVANGELIST (crying out): 
That is my belief tool 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 405 

JOURNALIST (mocking her) : 

In History the Devil's question is not 

"Where is God?" but "What is the human church?" 


Some men think the church an altar 

To expose the sacred mystery of our Lord, 

Where forever the longing of the heart 

May be stilled in the blessing of its need; 

While other men think of the church as God's word 

Sounding through a humble minister's voice 

Until the word of love lights up the sacred hall. 


But you never thought of the church in these ways. 
In History men call you a Seeker. 


That is true. To me the human church is but 
A house of error and of search and all men in it, 
Catholic, Protestant, or Jew, kneel ~xhere as eternal 


For it is written: "Seek and ye shall find," 
And what man finds is in the seeking, 
In the peril and pilgrimage of search 
Lies his only reward and salvation, 
Never to know on earth the light of paradise, 
But only a knowledge of suffering, 
Of the inseparable knots of hate and love. 

EVANGELIST (radiantly): 
That is the meaning of faith. 

JOURNALIST (ironically): 
That is the peace of History 
In which you have found your high place. 



Your history is only proof of the world's wilderness. 
The peace of the true Seeker of God does not come 
From knocking at the door of time, 
But from knocking at the soul's timeless door . . . 


You have knocked at the door of time. 

(As WILLIAMS stares at him, the EVANGELIST moves 
impatiently in front of the JOURNALIST) 


Do not despair, Roger Williams, at men of little faith. 

Christ must return in blazing light 

And the Seeker nears the end of his search. 

His history only sweats in the record of fleshly lust (She 

is scorning the JOURNALIST) 
But I can tell you of the soul's progress 
And of man's longing steps toward God. 


She'll tell you sentimental lies. 

WILLIAMS (after a moment of hesitation^ to the EVANGEL- 
Perhaps you are my truth. I will listen to you. 

EVANGELIST (from this point on, the fire of her voice in- 
creases) : 

I bring you good tidings of a joyous God, from a time 
When churches blaze over His green land and the sky is 
Brilliant white with neon-lighted crosses to His name, 

WILLIAMS (uncertain): 

The joy of God is not the joy of man. 


Now God builds the innocent church and scorches 
The guilty preacher with the power of His radiation. 

SCHEVILL: 'The Bloody Tenet 407 


Her radiation means death today. 


How did you find His power of salvation? 


One night in the darkness of my room, 
Poor and sick in a factory city, a dazzling light 
Scarred the wall and the burning voice of His radiation 
Spoke from the scorched plaster: "Wherefore seek ye 
not redemption?" 


What did you learn from this voice? 


The Lord healed me with His mercy, and I went into 

the world 

To preach God's glory which 
I call the Gospel of Radiant Redemption. 


Which you call or which God calls? 
Are you my truth or my false pride? 

JOURNALIST (scornfully}: 

This is the History which your pride has created. 

EVANGELIST (ecstatically} : 

I feel His light every Sunday at my Sacred Radiation 


When I walk down the silver staircase and the spotlight 
Flashes on the golden altar underneath the voice of the 

Then I feel His radiance burning through me, 
Commanding me to preach His Gospel! 


A silver staircase and a golden altar as His Truth? 
God commands no one to preach in vanity. 
What proof have you of His will? 


Here, I give you charts of all our American churches, 

(She does so) 

Old and new, who have separated from the state 
To create fresh hymns of glory as you willed. 

WILLIAMS (looking doubtfully at the charts) : 

So many churches . . . These may be splinters of the 
Devil's will. (He pushes them away) 


You have created them yourself. 


In your name new religions of Jesus spread their 
Warming currents and the air is charged with miracles 

of hope. 
God is a power like radiation to consume the body with 

And devour the evil mind into an ash of burning terror! 

WILLIAMS (tormented): 
I am that evil mind. 


Blessings on you, Roger Williams, 

You have shown us the radiance of Jesus. 


I have shown you nothing. 


You have shown us the fate of History. 

SCHEVILL: The Bloody Tenet 409 


My faith is not in the time of your History. 


You have shown us the simplicity of God 
And the freedom of His eternal love. 


The danger of simplicity is always tyranny, 
Of reducing the mystery of God's love 
To the greed of man's love for power. 

EVANGELIST (in a last, ecstatic outburst, she pushes in 
front of the JOURNALIST) : 

His radiation and simplicity! Blessings on you, Roger 

Praise the Lordl Praise His name, His peace, His ever- 
lasting love, 

His Love! . . . 

The lights go up abruptly and the -figures of the 
JOURNALIST and the EVANGELIST disappear. Just 
after the echo of the EVANGELIST'S last fervent cry of 
"Love!", the frozen pose of Governor Haynes re- 
laxes and he completes the verdict. 

HAYNES: . . . the hateful errors of pride must be driven 
from this new land of God. Therefore, the General Court 
of Massachusetts Bay, respecting and humbly praising 
His divine mercy, sentences you to immediate and 
eternal banishment. On pain of death you will never 
again be permitted to live within the boundaries of this 
colony. Is there anything final you wish to say? 

WILLIAMS (turning away from the members of the Court) : 
I will not answer you for my own pride. 
This Court has found in me false images, 
But no more than I have found in myself. 
In my need I have heard the word of God 


That men distort in their bloody tenet 
Of persecution for cause of conscience. 
I have seen the acts of murder and war 
Men commit in the name of the Prince of Peace. 
I have felt the dangerous heresy of a future 
When the cure of love is cried in false simplicity 
And the material stones of life are called divine. 
I know the common trinity of the world is 
Profit, preferment, and pleasure but still I believe 
That the human weeds in the Lord's garden must be left 
To His judgment; the music of God sings above man's 
bloody laws, 

The choir begins to sing softly the last stanza of 
A music of the regal senses 
Rising above a tyrant's rules of order. 
Sometimes, this music seems disorder, 
A luring echo of magical sounds, 
And then we damn it with the name of Devil, 
The fallen angel from the brilliant air. 
Our danger then is that we damn all music 
Until the rigid rules harden to hate. 
In one moment God may reach us, 
A moment of utter timelessness, 
Yet we may reach God only through 
An agony of separation from His love. 
And so I pray against my pride and yours 
Oh Lord, let Thy music sing in the winter of man's exile! 
After Williams finishes speaking, the choir repeats, 
full-voice this time, the last stanza of "WONDROUS 

And when from death I'm free 

Til sing and joyful be 

And through eternity, 

I'll sing on, I'll sing on, 

And through eternity 

I'll sing on.